12 Ways Facebook Helps Pastors

As a followup to yesterday's post, I offer the following, which--though originally composed and posted a couple years ago--details and amplifies Ron Edmondson's point about social media and pastors. While I am no longer pastoring for a living (see this post), much of the following still holds true:
Facebook has made me a better pastor. I joined the social networking site a while ago, but never used it for some time. Then, just a few months ago, I became an avid user (my friend Jae Hess claims I need an intervention, but so far I’ve managed to avoid anything so extreme). Since then, I’m becoming more and more aware of the benefits of Facebook to me as a pastor:

1.Facebook helps me connect with more people in the church. Last Sunday, I was able to greet someone with a followup to a statement they had made on Facebook! We enjoyed a short conversation and a laugh that might not have gone beyond “good morning” otherwise. And it allows me to make connections with people at their convenience, without intruding into a busy schedule or hectic home.
2. I send daily birthday greetings to members of my flock who are on Facebook. It only takes a few seconds, but it’s such a blessing to have that brief connection. I can’t help but believe it means something to send those greetings.
3. I’m in the loop. Through Facebook, I’ve been much better informed about the lives of my brothers and sisters: who’s on vacation, who’s having surgery, who’s having a bad day, and so on.
4. I pray via Facebook. I have had multiple opportunities to include a short prayer for a member of the church, and I’ve linked my daily prayer blog to my profile page, so my church family can gain a sense of what I’m praying each day.
5. It makes me “normal.” As normal as a pastor can be, that is. People can see on Facebook if I share an interest of theirs, or keep up with the semi-normal pursuits of my daily life.
6. It extends my example when I mention that I’m on a date night with my wife, or “sabbathing,” or “complining before bedtiming,” for example.
7. It helps me learn names. I have actually studied photos of people in the church whom I’ve “friended” on Facebook to try to improve my recollection when I see them at church. And just yesterday we got a program tab with a newcomer’s contact info on it, and I wasn’t sure of the last name...until that person asked me to “friend” her on Facebook!
8. It has increased my photo library of church things. Last week, after a child dedication on Sunday, a friend posted photos of her child’s dedication and “tagged” me in the picture. I copied those photos to my own files.
9. Facebook gets the word out. A few months ago, my church got a donation of brand new white boards. We installed those we needed and had one left over. I saw a ministry friend’s update on Facebook saying he was shopping for a white board. I sent him a message and a few days later he had a brand new board at no cost.
10. It encourages me and invites prayer for me. A while back, I was having a really crummy day, and said so in my update. Within minutes, a bunch of friends assured me they loved me and were praying for me. For a guy whose tendency is to suffer alone, that’s a huge benefit.
11. It makes me laugh. With all the stresses that come with public ministry, having an occasional friend poke fun at me---or me at them---makes the load a little lighter.
12. It makes me look cooler than I really am. At least, cooler than pastors who aren’t on Facebook, right?

I’m sure I’m forgetting or overlooking a few more ministry advantages to Facebook. Feel free to add your own in the comments. And, by the way, it’s not as time-consuming as most people think. I keep my Facebook page open in the background and check it a few times a day, max. Honestly. Seriously. No, really. No kidding. I’m being straight with you. Oops, just got a message on Facebook. Gotta go.

Social Media and Pastors

Blogging pastor Ron Edmondson is right in offering "7 Words Why You Need Social Media as a Pastor Today":







That’s all there is to it. Of course, you want more explanation if you’ve questioned it so far. Let me just say this: If you want to reach people, you have to go where people are…

Any questions?
He's right. You may PREFER to be a Luddite. You may not LIKE social media. But maybe Paul wasn't a big fan of Mars Hill, either. But he went where the people were, So must we. Period.

Wrong Decisions

Wrong Way by aturkus
Wrong Way, a photo by aturkus on Flickr.

Jeff Goins, guest-posting on Michael Hyatt's leadership blog, writes the following. It's excellent. Read the whole thing:

I once heard Dave Ramsey share the secret to his effective leadership and decision-making strategy: ”I make a decision, and if it’s the wrong one, I make another one.”

Here was my thought process in reaction to that statement:

That’s ludicrous.
That’s reckless.
That’s… genius.

At the time, Dave knew something about leadership that I was just beginning to learn....
Like I said, read the whole thing.

Church of the Week: Two Cincinnati Churches

The church of the week today is actually two churches. And neither is the actual church, but a replica found in this year's lovely holiday floral show at Krohn Conservatory, "Trains, Trestles, and Traditions."

Above is the historic Salem United Church of Christ, located on Sycamore Street in the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati. It was built in 1867. To the left is the Mount Adams Incline, which no longer exists. But the church does, and still operates in its historic location, also hosting the Know Theater of Cincinnati.

The other church featured in the display is the Church of the Immaculata, or Immaculata Church, a Roman Catholic church atop Mt. Adams. Located at 30 Guido Street, it allows a breathtaking view of the Ohio River below from one of the highest points in Cincinnati. It was built in 1859, and since 1860 has served as a pilgrimage church, where on Good Friday the faithful ascend eighty-five steps (many on their knees) to the church's front door from the neighborhood below while praying the Rosary.

These are two great selections (among many that could have been included) of historic churches that are part of Cincinnati's rich tradition.

Biblical Fiction

Of all the book reviews I've featured on this blog (more than 100), I don't think I've ever said much about Biblical fiction, a genre I have long enjoyed and from which I have benefited (unless you count The Book of God, which doesn't quite fit, in my opinion). So I thought I'd take a little time to list some of my favorite pieces of Biblical fiction.

So I looked over my reading record (yes, I've kept a record for decades now), and I was honestly a little surprised at how many Biblical novels I had read. Listing them all would be way too work-intensive. So I will choose what I consider, off the top of my head, to be the most memorable among them (though that's an unfair standard for those I read more than a few years ago...but then again, more than half the list are in that category, so I don't feel too bad). Here they are, in the order of the Biblical eras or events they describe

Son of Laughter (Frederick Buechner)
The story of the biblical patriarch Jacob...as told by Jacob. An accomplished, memorable work of Biblical fiction.

Naomi and Her Daughters (Walter Wangerin)
The story of Naomi, and Ruth...and Boaz. I loved this book.

Day of War (Cliff Graham)
An amazing first novel, the first in the Lion of War series on the Biblical story of King David.

The Rebel Prince (Henry W. Coray)
A 1975 novel about Absalom, the rebellious son of King David.

Elijah (William H. Stephens)
Though I read this story of the prophet Elijah many years ago, I remember being engrossed in it.

Gods and Kings (Lynn Austin)
The story of King Hezekiah, Book 1 of Chronicles of the Kings. This story brought to life for me the interplay between the kings and prophets (such as Isaiah and Micah, among others) in the years before the Exile.

Pontius Pilate (Paul L. Maier)
This is also one I read many years ago, which has also stuck with me in my memory (as have the next three).

Dear and Glorious Physician (Taylor Caldwell)
It's appropriate for Caldwell to make this list twice. She probably deserves all ten listings. This novel of the New Testament author Luke is first-rate.

Great Lion of God (Taylor Caldwell)
The story of Paul the Apostle. As only Caldwell could tell it.

Letter to Philemon (Winthrop and Frances Neilson)
Out of print now, I remember this novel bringing to vivid life the story of Philemon--the subject of the short New Testament letter that now bears his name. Utterly fascinating, as I recall.

Pastoral Weight Lifting

Paul spoke of bearing "every day the load of my concern for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28, NCV). Jared Wilson says something similar here:
The work of a pastor is difficult. Very few Christians lose sleep over the state of their church, the spiritual health of the body, the collective faithfulness or unfaithfulness of the congregation. But pastors do. This is something very few people who aren’t pastors can understand, isn’t it? While pastors carry the weight of their own struggles, and likely the weight of the struggles of their friends and family, they also carry the weight of the struggles of an entire church. They are responsible for more; they are accountable for much (Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness, p. 192).
Forgive how this may sound, but I truly believe those who are not or have not been pastors can't understand this burden pastors carry every day.

The Wrong War

Out of Ur posted a gripping interview yesterday with Tullian Tchividjian, who succeeded the late James Kennedy as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He tells about the internecine warfare he and his church faced over the last several years. There was even a petition drive to remove him as pastor (which he survived). The full interview appears at LeadershipJournal.net.

I've experienced some of the things he talks about, but it's still shocking. Far too often, church people fight the wrong war. We engage in gossip, innuendo, character assassination, and power struggles.

I have at times beaten up myself that churches I have pastored weren't bigger than that, that the people in one of my churches hadn't been discipled beyond such blindness, stupidity, and sin. But the people (and some leaders and former leaders) of Coral Ridge weren't any better, and they had the estimable James Kennedy as their pastor for many years. And, of course, some first-century churches that Paul planted were pretty messed up, too. So of course it can happen to any church.

I recommend this interview to you, along with the Biblical admonition, "May it not be so among you" (Matthew 20:26). May it never be so. It is a (literal) shame to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a shocking transgression against the Holy Spirit.

Prayer As Barometer and Thermometer

This is spot on:
Prayer is essential for the Christian, as much for what it says about us as for what it can do through God. The simple act of getting on our knees (or faces or feet or whatever) for 5 or 50 minutes every day is the surest sign of our humility and dependence on our Father in heaven. There may be many reasons for our prayerlessness—time management, busyness, lack of concentration—but most fundamentally, we ask not because we think we need not. or we think God can give not. Deep down we feel secure when we have money in the bank, a healthy report from the doctor, and powerful people on our side. We do not trust in God alone. Prayerlessness is an expression of our meager confidence in God’s ability to provide and of our strong confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves without God’s help.
Read the whole thing here. Thanks to Jeremy Carr, on whose blog I found this.

Gospel Authorship

The "Ehrman" Dr. Kruger refers to in this video is, of course, Dr. Bart Ehrman, a scholar and author who has become quite accomplished in questioning the reliability of the Bible:

Church of the Week: Gingerbread House of God

I haven't seen it in person, but I read about it on the excellent Deacon's Bench blog here. You can read all about it there, too.

Characteristics of the Anointed Preacher (Pt. 4)

These past few days I've been sharing parts of Samuel Logan Brengle's chapter on the Apostle Paul as a preacher in his book, When the Holy Ghost is Come, with the readers of the Desperate Pastor blog. Here's the final part, in which he says, speaking of Paul:
5. He was not vain-glorious, nor dictatorial, nor oppressive. Some men care nothing for money, but they care mightily for power and place and the glory that men give. But Paul was free from this spiritual itching. Listen to him: “Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome” (or “used authority”) “as the Apostles of Christ.”

Said Solomon, “For men to seek their own glory is not glory,” it is only vain-glory. “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” asked Jesus.

From all this Paul was free, and so is every man who is full of the Holy Ghost. And it is only as we are thus free that with the whole heart and with a single eye we can devote ourselves to the work of saving men.

6. With all his boldness and faithfulness he was gentle. “We were gentle among you,” he says, “as a nurse cherisheth her children.”

The fierce hurricane which casts down the giant trees of the forest is not so mighty as the gentle sunshine, which, from tiny seeds and acorns, lifts aloft the towering spires of oak and fir on a thousand hills and mountains.

The wild storm that lashes the sea into foam and fury is feeble compared to the gentle, yet immeasurably powerful influence, which twice a day swings the oceans in resistless tides from shore to shore.

And as in the physical world the mighty powers are gentle in their vast workings, so it is in the spiritual world. The light that falls on the lids of the sleeping infant and wakes it from its slumber, is not more gentle than the “still small voice” that brings assurance of forgiveness or cleansing to them that look unto Jesus.

Oh, the gentleness of God! “Thy gentleness hath made me great,” said David. “I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. x. 1), wrote Paul. And again, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness” (Gal. v. 22). And as the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are gentle, so will be the servant of the Lord who is filled with the Spirit.

I shall never forget the gentleness of a mighty man of God whom I well knew, who on the platform was clothed with zeal as with a garment, and in his overwhelming earnestness was like a lion or a consuming fire; but when dealing with a wounded or broken heart, or with a seeking soul, no nurse with a little babe could be more tender than he.

7. Finally, Paul was full of self-forgetful, self-sacrificing love. “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.”

No wonder he shook those heathen cities, overthrew their idols, had great revivals, that his jailer was converted, and that his converts would have gladly plucked out their eyes for him! Such tender, self-sacrificing love compels attention, begets confidence, enkindles love, and surely wins its object.

This burning love led him to labour and sacrifice, and so live and walk before them that he was not only a teacher, but an example of all he taught, and could safely say, “Follow me.”

This love led him to preach the whole truth, that he might by all means save them. He kept back no truth because it was unpopular, for it was their salvation and not his own reputation and popularity he sought.

He preached not himself, but a crucified Christ, without the shedding of whose blood there is no remission of sins; and through that precious blood he preached present cleansing from all sin, and the gift of the Holy Spirit for all who obediently believe.

And this love kept him faithful and humble and true to the end, so that at last in sight of the martyr’s death, he saw the martyr’s crown, and cried out: “I am now ready to be offered,... I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.”

He had been faithful, and now at the end he was oppressed with no doubts and harassed with no bitter regrets, but looked forward with eager joy to meeting his Lord and beholding the blessed face of Him he loved. Hallelujah!

“Have you received the Holy Ghost?
’Twill fit you for the fight,
’Twill make of you a mighty host,
To put your foes to flight.

“Have you received the Holy Power?
’Twill fall from Heaven on you,
From Jesus’ throne this very hour,
’Twill make you brave and true.

“Oh, now receive the Holy Fire!
’Twill burn away all dross,
All earthly, selfish, vain desire,
’Twill make you love the Cross.”

Characteristics of the Anointed Preacher (Pt. 3)

These past few days I've been sharing parts of Samuel Logan Brengle's chapter on the Apostle Paul as a preacher in his book, When the Holy Ghost is Come, with the readers of the Desperate Pastor blog. Here's more, in which he says, speaking of Paul:
3. He was without guile. “For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile; but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.”

He was frank and open. He spoke right out of his heart. He was transparently simple and straightforward. Since God had honoured him with this infinite trust of preaching the Gospel, he sought to so preach it that he should please God regardless of men. And yet that is the surest way to please men. People who listen to such a man feel his honesty, and realise that he is seeking to do them good, to save them rather than to tickle their ears and win their applause, and in their hearts they are pleased.

But, anyway, whether or not they are pleased, he is to deliver his message as an ambassador, and look to his home government for his reward. He gets his commission from God, and it is God who will try his heart and prove his ministry. Oh, to please Jesus! Oh, to stand perfect before God after preaching His Gospel!

4. He was not a time-server nor a covetous man. “Neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness,” he adds.

There are three ways of reaching a man’s purse: (1) Directly. (2) By way of his head with flattering words. (3) By way of his heart with manly, honest, saving words. The first way is robbery. The second way is robbery, with the poison of a deadly, but pleasing, opiate added, which may damn his soul. The third reaches his purse by saving his soul and opening in his heart an unfailing fountain of benevolence to bless himself and the world.

It were better for a preacher to turn highwayman, and rob men with a club and a strong hand, than, with smiles and smooth words and feigned and fawning affection, to rob them with flattery, while their poor souls, neglected and deceived, go down to Hell. How will he meet them in the Day of Judgment, and look into their horrorstricken faces, realising that he played and toyed with their fancies and affections and pride to get money, and, instead of faithfully warning them and seeking to save them, with flattering words fattened their souls for destruction!

Not so did Paul. “I seek not yours, but you,” he wrote the Corinthians. It was not their money, but their souls he wanted.

But such faithful love will be able to command all men have to give. Why, to some of his converts he wrote: “I bear you record, that if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” (Gal. iv. 15). But he sought not to please them with flattering words, only to save them.

So faithful was he in this matter, and so conscious of his integrity, that he called God Himself into the witness-box. “God is witness,” says he.

Blessed is the man who can call on God to witness for him; and that man in whom the Holy Spirit dwells in fullness can do this. Can you, my brother?

Characteristics of the Anointed Preacher (Pt. 2)

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm sharing parts of Samuel Logan Brengle's chapter on the Apostle Paul as a preacher in his book, When the Holy Ghost is Come, with the readers of the Desperate Pastor blog. Here's part two, in which he says, speaking of Paul:
2. He was a bold preacher. Worldly prudence would have constrained him to go softly at Thessalonica, after his experience at Philippi, lest he arouse opposition and meet again with personal violence; but, instead, he says: “We were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much contention.” Personal considerations were all forgotten, or cast to the winds, in his impetuous desire to declare the Gospel and save their souls. He lived in the will of God, and conquered his fears. “The wicked” are fearful, and “flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”

This boldness is a fruit of righteousness, and is always found in those who are full of the Holy Ghost. They forget themselves, and so lose all fear. This was the secret of the martyrs when burned at the stake or thrown to the wild beasts.

Fear is a fruit of selfishness. Boldness thrives when selfishness is destroyed. God esteems it, commands His people to be courageous, and makes spiritual leaders only of those who possess courage (Joshua i. 9).

Moses feared not the wrath of the king, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and boldly espoused the cause of his despised and enslaved people.

Joshua was full of courage. Gideon fearlessly attacked one hundred and twenty thousand Midianites, with but three hundred unarmed men.

Jonathan and his armour-bearer charged the Philistine garrison and routed hundreds singlehanded.

David faced the lion and the bear, and inspired all Israel by battling with and killing Goliath.

The prophets were men of the highest courage, who fearlessly rebuked kings, and at the risk of life, and often at the cost of life, denounced popular sins, and called the people back to righteousness and the faithful service of God. These men feared God, and so lost the fear of man. They believed God, and so obeyed Him, and found His favour, and were entrusted with His high missions and everlasting employments.

“Fear thou not, for I am with thee,” saith the Lord; and this Paul believed, and so says, “We were bold in our God.” God was his high tower, his strength and unfailing defence, and so he was not afraid.

His boldness toward man was a fruit of his boldness toward God, and that, in turn, was a fruit of his faith in Jesus as his High Priest, who had been touched with the feeling of his infirmities, and through whom he could “come boldly to the Throne of Grace, and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need.”

It is the timidity and delicacy with which men attempt God’s work that often accounts for their failure. Let them speak out boldly like men, as ambassadors of Heaven, who are not afraid to represent their King, and they will command attention and respect, and reach the hearts and consciences of men.

I have read that quaint old Bishop Latimer, who was afterwards burned at the stake, “having preached a sermon before King Henry VIII, which greatly displeased the monarch, was ordered to preach again on the next Sunday, and make apology for the offence given. The day came, and with it a crowded assembly anxious to hear the bishop’s apology. Reading his text, he commenced thus: ’Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest. Therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But, then, consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest? Upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God, who is all-present, and who beholdeth all thy ways, and who is able to cast thy soul into Hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliver thy message faithfully.’”

He then repeated the sermon of the previous Sunday, word for word, but with double its former energy and emphasis. The Court was full of excitement to learn what would be the fate of this plain-dealing and fearless bishop. He was ordered into the king’s presence, who, with a stern voice, asked: “How dared you thus offend me?” “I merely discharged my duty,” was Latimer’s reply. The king arose from his seat, embraced the good man, saying, “Blessed be God I have so honest a servant.”

He was a worthy successor of Nathan, who confronted King David with his sin, and said, “Thou art the man.”

This Divine courage will surely accompany the fiery baptism of the Spirit.

What is it but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that gives courage to Salvation Army Officers and Soldiers, enabling them to face danger and difficulty and loneliness with joy, and attack sin in its worst forms as fearlessly as David attacked Goliath?

“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.”

“Shall I, for fear of feeble man,
The Spirit’s course in me restrain?
Awed by a mortal’s frown, shall I
Conceal the word of God most high?
Shall I, to soothe the unholy throng,
Soften Thy truth, or smooth my tongue?

“How then before Thee shall I dare
To stand, or how Thine anger bear?
Yea, let men rage; since Thou wilt spread
Thy shadowing wings around my head;
Since in all pain Thy tender love
Will still my sure refreshment prove.”

Eight Traps of Church Leadership Teams

Wow, this is a GREAT post (even more than his usual great-post-edness) by Tony Morgan:

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with over 50 churches. There are many, many healthy situations when it comes to senior leadership teams. Healthy leaders are, of course, in the best position to lead healthy churches. Along the way, though, I’ve identified some traps that can create challenges for both leaders and the ministries they lead.

As we continue this series on senior leadership teams, here are eight mistakes to avoid:

  1. Adding a family member without considering their capacity or counting the cost. To improve the chances for success, let others make the hiring decision and provide leadership to that family member. And, frankly, I think it’s best if both family members are not on the senior leadership team together.
  2. Hiring personality rather than leadership capacity. There are lots of good people (fun people!) who aren’t necessarily the best leaders. There are roles for those folks, but it may not be on your senior leadership team.
  3. Elevating seniority over leadership capacity. I’ve been friends with some people for 20 years or more. The length of our relationship, though, doesn’t necessarily mean they are best positioned to serve in leadership with me. Just because you’ve served with someone for 20 years doesn’t mean they’re the right person for your leadership team either.
  4. Hiring to fill roles. Think leadership capacity before job titles. You need the right people rather than the right positions.
  5. Giving someone leadership responsibilities before they’ve proven they have the capacity for the role. This is a biblical principle. “Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader” (1 Timothy 5:22, NLT).
  6. Allowing complainers to stay too long. You want healthy conflict — that’s part of healthy teamwork. Constant complaining from someone who doesn’t fully embrace the vision, values, strategy and authority of the church, though, is never healthy.
  7. Failing to empower the other leaders. This includes leaders on the senior leadership team and leaders in other staff and volunteer roles in the ministry. When we try to control people, we’re denying them the opportunity to fulfill God’s mission for their lives and God’s plan for the church.
  8. Meeting too often and too long. As I’ve mentioned before, the best resource you can read on this topic is Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. We need less talk and more action.

Some of you read that list and thought: “I have a problem.” Being in ministry, this is obvious, but your first step is to begin praying about that situation. God wants healthy leaders and healthy churches as well. He’ll answer that prayer.

Secondly, you need to engage the tough conversations. Don’t delay.

  • Start by asking questions. What’s working? What’s not? Are you fulfilled? Don’t be surprised if they open the door to the issues you were avoiding.
  • State your clear expectations for the role. Be honest. Be clear. Explain what success looks like for the person in the role.
  • Provide coaching. Offer training resources or experiences. Outline mentoring opportunities.
  • Establish a timeline. When will you check-in? When will you consider next steps?
  • Follow up. Follow up in writing with what you’ve discussed. Follow up with conversations to make sure appropriate progress is happening.

These tough conversations will not always lead to resolution of the issue, but many times they will. In other instances, you may have to follow tough conversations with tough decisions — that’s leadership.

Characteristics of the Anointed Preacher

Lately I've had the immeasurable joy of reading the books of Samuel Logan Brengle, in connection with a writing assignment I'm undertaking. His writing has renewed my soul and fed my spirit in countless ways, and I thought I'd share some of that blessing with the readers of the Desperate Pastor blog (I hope before long to share it in another way in book form, but more about that later).

Brengle's chapter on the Apostle Paul as a preacher in his book, When the Holy Ghost is Come, is exceptional. I'll share it in parts, a day at a time, and hope it speaks to you as it has to me:
Since God saves men by “the foolishness of preaching,” the preacher has an infinitely important work, and he must be fitted for it. But what can fit a man for such sacred work? Not education alone, not knowledge of books, not gifts of speech, not winsome manners, nor a magnetic voice, nor a commanding presence, but only God. The preacher must be more than a man—­he must be a man plus the Holy Ghost.

Paul was such a man. He was full of the Holy Spirit, and in studying his life and ministry we get a life-sized portrait of an anointed preacher living, fighting, preaching, praying, suffering, triumphing, and dying in the power and light and glory of the indwelling Spirit.

In the second chapter of the First of Thessalonians he gives us a picture of his character and ministry which were formed and inspired by the Holy Spirit, a sample of His workmanship, and an example for all Gospel preachers.

At Philippi he had been terribly beaten with stripes on his bare back, and roughly thrust into the inner dungeon, and his feet were made fast in the stocks; but that did not break nor quench his spirit. Love burned in his heart, and his joy in the Lord brimmed full and bubbled over, and at midnight, in the damp, dark, loathsome dungeon, he and Silas, his comrade in service and suffering, “prayed and sang praises unto God.” God answered with an earthquake, and the jailer and his household got gloriously converted. Paul was set free and went at once to Thessalonica, where, regardless of the shameful way he had been treated at Philippi, he preached the Gospel boldly, and a blessed revival followed with many converts; but persecution arose, and Paul had again to flee. His heart, however, was continually turning back to these converts, and at last he sat down and wrote them this letter. From this we learn that—­

1. He was a joyful preacher. He was no pessimist, croaking out doleful prophecies and lamentations and bitter criticisms. He was full of the joy of the Lord. It was not the joy that comes from good health, a pleasant home, plenty of money, wholesome food, numerous and smiling friends, and sunny, favouring skies; but a deep, springing fountain of solemn, gladdening joy that abounded and overflowed in pain and weariness, in filthy, noisome surroundings, in loneliness and poverty, and danger and bitter persecutions. No earth-born trial could quench it, for it was Heaven-born; it was “the joy of the Lord” poured into his heart with the Holy Spirit.

The Mystery Worshiper

The Mystery Worshiper is a recurring feature of the "Ship of Fools" Christian satire website. They send anonymous worshipers to churches all around the world, asking the really important questions: How long was the sermon? How hard the pew? How cold was the coffee? How warm the welcome? And more. It's often funny, often sad, but always interesting.

What if the Mystery Worshiper came to YOUR church and asked such questions as:
How full was the building?

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Was your pew or seat comfortable?

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

What were the exact opening words of the service?

What books did the congregation use during the service?

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Exactly how long was the sermon?

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

How would you feel about making this church your regular place of worship (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
It might not be a bad idea for pastors and church leaders to periodically commission a friend or acquaintance who is not a member of their church to pay a visit and answer questions like these.

Ministering to Ministers

I've learned recently of the Ministering to Ministers Foundation, based in Viriginia. The Foundation was created in 1994 by a group of ministers who had experienced involuntary separation from their congregations.

Today, the foundation serves individual ministers, their families, and church organizations.It is an advocate for ministers and their families in all faith groups who are experiencing personal or professional crisis due to deteriorating employment or congregation-minister relationships. It works as a mediator to reunite minister and congregation when resolution of issues is needed. They also conduct "Wellness Retreats," produce educational materials, and publish periodic newsletters entitled The Servant and The MTM Messenger.

The foundation is also hosting a free concert by Ken Medema in Holland, Michigan on November 19. A love offering will be taken at the concert to benefit the work of the foundation.

Time to Plan Your 2012 Preaching Calendar

Starting tomorrow, Nelson Searcy is offering a series of FREE WEBINARS for pastors called “Planning Your 2012 Preaching Calendar” (I have found an annual preaching calendar a crucial discipleship tool in my pastoral ministry, and I fervently recommend it).

Nelson will walk you (by phone and on your computer) through the 2011 calendar during the course of a 75 minute webinar and help you plan what you’re going to preach over the next year.

You can register now at this link:


Each of these webinars will walk you through:

* When, specifically, to plan your 2012 Big Days (and when not to plan them).
* The pitfalls and possibilities built into the 2012 calendar
* How to make the most of people’s natural seasonal patterns.
* The best times in 2012 for each of the 3 different types of sermon series (attraction, growth & balance).
* How to make Easter in 2012 more effective than ever at your church.
* Which days you can expect fewer people and how to best use those days.
* Plus much more!

You can register now for one of the following four times:

2:00pm – 3:15pm Eastern
1:00pm – 2:15pm Central
12:00pm – 1:15pm Mountain
11:00am – 12:15pm Pacific

7:00pm – 8:15pm Eastern
6:00pm – 7:15pm Central
5:00pm – 6:15pm Mountain
4:00pm – 5:15pm Pacific

2:00pm – 3:15pm Eastern
1:00pm – 2:15pm Central
12:00pm – 1:15pm Mountain
11:00am – 12:15pm Pacific

2:00pm – 3:15pm Eastern
1:00pm – 2:15pm Central
12:00pm – 1:15pm Mountain
11:00am – 12:15pm Pacific

Be Here

This is a wonderful video, a beautiful synthesis of image, sound, movement, and message:

BE HERE NOW from blaine hogan on Vimeo.

And, while I don't want to distract from actually being "here," from anyone entering fully into the message of the video, I can't help thinking and commenting that THIS is more like what modern preaching ought to be like. Creative. Effective. Carefully thought out. A synthesis of image, sound, movement, and message (and, when possible, touch and smell, too).

Setting Boundaries with Difficult People

I've just received an advance copy of my friend Allison Bottke's newest book, Setting Boundaries with Difficult People, and I just couldn't wait to recommend it to the readers of the Desperate Pastor Blog.

Allison's "Setting Boundaries" series, and its helpful steps to restoring SANITY to our lives, is a Godsend. Literally. I've already mentioned (here) on this blog that her Setting Boundaries with Adult Children is a book I buy multiple copies of to give away. It's that helpful, and the need for it is that widespread.

I think the same is true of Setting Boundaries with Difficult People. EVERYBODY deals with difficult people. Angry people. Unhappy people. Demanding, cynical, critical people. And the more such people populate (and perhaps pollute) your life, the more Allison's book can help you preserve--or restore--your sanity.

Jordan River Anthology

A number of years ago, I got to thinking about all the people--unmentioned or unnamed in the Bible--who must have crossed paths with Jesus during his earthly life of thirty-three years or so. The midwife who helped deliver him on that first Christmas night. The census taker in Bethlehem. A childhood sweetheart, maybe. A cousin. The village gossip. Judas's mother. Peter's mother-in-law. And more.

So I started writing short poems, in the manner of Edgar Lee Masters's wonderful Spoon River Anthology, to give voice to those people. To imagine what they might have seen, how they might have reacted to Y'shua of Nazareth who is now worshiped around the world as Savior and Lord. I've since collected ninety-three of those poems into a collection I call, Jordan River Anthology that is now newly available as an ebook (here).

Here's one of them, entitled, "A Servant at Cana":
The Servant at Cana
With my own eyes I saw,
Or I would not believe.
When the wine ran out,
At his direction,
We filled the vessels,
Thirty gallons each,
With water.

I lowered the ladle
(Again at his word)
Into the brimming liquid
And momently
The ruby smell
Of rich wine
Reached my senses.

I bore the once-water
To the master of the feast
And watched,
As he and the guests
Drank ignorantly
Of water turned to wine.

And I thought,
If he can do that with water,
What might he do with me?
I'd love it if you'd check out Jordan River Anthology. I'd love it even more if you buy it; it's only 99 cents, and it can be read on an eReader (such as iPad or Kindle) or on a computer! And I'd love it, too, if you'd share it with your friends and family, on Twitter, Facebook, email, and even in actual conversation.

The Book of God

In The Book of God, Walter Wangerin does a magnificent job with this effort to write the broad scope of the Bible, from the call of Abraham to the birth and development of the Christian church, in a refreshing, gripping way. Wangerin's command of the language--prose and poetry alike--is no surprise, but I must confess to surprise and delight at his ability to make the old, familiar, oft-read accounts of Scripture seem eye-openingly new.

It's not quite "The Bible as a Novel," as the subtitle has it. While Wangerin is an artful novelist, I suspect even he would admit that the book's structure and plot represent a compromise between the Biblical narrative and the novelist's tasks. But it is an admirable achievement, nonetheless.

The Book of God's 850 pages seem short, and familiar and less-familiar passages ring with music and intrigue...a magnum opus of an already accomplished author.