Michael Hyatt's brand new Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World--also subtitled "A Step-by-Step Guide for Anyone with Something to Say or Sell"--is a great book. Though packed full of information, it is an easy read; I was genuinely amazed at how quickly I got through it. Though I have read Michael Hyatt's blog for some time now, and could of course recognize some content I had come across before, all of it was nonetheless fresh and helpful. And though I have been writing, speaking, and tooting my own horn for a couple decades now, and have thousands of Facebook friends, blog subscribers, and Twitter followers, I learned a lot--as evidenced by the many markers I stuck on pages (see the photo) indicating ideas or suggestions I want to follow up later.

Anyone who plans to publish, speak, or otherwise get a message out (as the subhead says) needs to read this book. It is thorough. It is entertaining. And it is tremendously helpful.

Church of the Week: St. John the Evangelist Church

Just over a week ago, in the company of my (much) older brother Larry, I visited the neighborhoods in which I grew up--Silverton, Deer Park, Kennedy Heights, and Pleasant Ridge--in Cincinnati. On our drive around the area, we stopped for a few minutes at St. John the Evangelist Church at the corner of Plainfield and Deer Park, in Deer Park.

The Roman Catholic church was founded in 1891 and is the oldest church in Deer Park. I remember this impressive modern building in my childhood, dominating the fork in the road just north of Montgomery Road, Meyer Winery, and the Italianette Pizzeria (all of which are still there, so I can't be that old).

We checked the doors, and they were all locked (whatever happened to churches being open for prayer during the day?). So we had to content ourselves with peering in the windows at the lovely sanctuary, and strolling through the well-tended gardens.

The church's website is here. Their annual festival is coming up June 8-10. We should all go.

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus

One of the most rewarding areas of study for me in my several decades of ministry has been the Jewish background and milieu of Yeshua Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah). That's what makes Lois Tverberg's Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus such a fun and enlightening read.

It brings many of Jesus' words and teachings to life as it explores the cultural, Jewish context of those teachings. The author explains numerous Jewish idioms and expressions that expose deeper and richer--and often clearer--meanings to what Jesus said. She sheds new light on many of Jesus' familiar parables. And she reveals the linkage between Jesus' words and Scriptural or historical background that his first audiences would have understood and appreciated--yet which modern readers miss.

I made numerous marks and notations in the book, which is one measure of quality for me. I thought the earlier chapters were especially helpful, and was amazed at the book's voluminous endnotes, many of which are as fun and helpful to read as the body of the book.

In short, I recommend Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. Whether you're a newbie to the subject or an experienced Bible student, you'll find much to learn and much to appreciate there.

Pastor Retreats

The lovely Robin and I have benefitted numerous times from the ministry of various friends and organizations who have offered us retreat sites for nothing or next-to-nothing. In Michigan, Colorado, Kentucky, and Ohio, we have experienced the generosity and hospitality--and recreativity--of prayer retreats and pastoral health retreat.

Now, one of my favorite bloggers, Lawrence W. Wilson, has posted a state-by-state listing (here) of guest, retreat, or vacation accommodations for those in ministry, some of which are offered free and all of which are affordable.

Check it out. And then GET A ROOM!

Preaching Today

Tony Jones, presenting today at the Festival of Homiletics in Atlanta, says:
We live in the most highly educated society and the most highly participatory culture in the history of humankind. Everything around us has changed: the clothes we wear, the way we transport ourselves, how we communicate.

And yet, 99% of preachers stand up on Sunday morning and deliver a monologue. A soliloquy.

And their churches decline. And they wring their hands.

There is another way. There is a way of participation and inclusion and dialogue and conversation.
He's absolutely right. How has YOUR preaching changed? How SHOULD it change, in order to reach the hearts and minds of today's audience?

The Perils of Writership

So, a few weeks ago I was a guest preacher at my friend Tim's church. The church's name is GracePointe. He and the other leaders of the church graciously allowed me
to offer some of my books for sale before and after the service, and one of the elders, an old friend by the name of Tom, bought a book. I asked if I should inscribe it to him. He said no, he planned to give it to the church library, so he gave me a name. I heard the name as "Grace Hoyt." I asked if there was an "e" on the end and he said there was. So I signed it and handed it to him.

A week or two later, I was having lunch with Pastor Tim, and he opened the book to the title page and showed it to me. "Who is Grace Hoyte?" he asked.

ONLY THEN did it dawn on me that Tom had asked me to inscribe it to GracePOINTE. Grace....POINTE. With an "e" on the end.

I owe them a book.

Networking for Introverts

I have an unscientific theory that the majority of pastors are introverts. Maybe that's because I am, and most of the pastors I've worked with are. In fact, I theorize that as many as eighty percent of pastors are introverts (though not all are RAGING introverts, as I am).

That's why I thought the following post, from Jim Lathrop's blog, would be truly helpful for many people of a pastoral persuasion:
Confession: I’m an introvert. Now I know it is hard for some people to believe, but I would rather be alone than in a big group most of the time. Many introverts assume that because they’d rather be alone, they will never become a good networker. I couldn’t disagree more.

I think it is untrue that it takes a complete extrovert to be a good networker. Extroverts do have some advantages because they are good at getting in a room and meeting the most people. However, some extroverts are so consumed with meeting people that they never connect in a personal, relational way.

Introverts usually get a bad rap since we only make up about 24-40% of the population. However, according to this study, introverts make up a majority of....
Read the rest here.

Your iPhone Can Reveal Your Holiness

I was not joking some time ago when I said here on the Desperate Pastor that iPhones make better pastors (read it here). Well, Jon Acuff, on his Stuff Christians Like blog (one of my favorites), takes it a bit further, and not just for pastors. He suggests the following:
I don’t need the table of contents in my Bible. In fact, I’m so holy I ripped it out and rolled it up into a homemade shofar horn to call my kids down to dinner. But that’s so paper of me, declaring my holiness by proving I know exactly where the book of Joel is based on my constant reading of the Bible. That’s 1997. Not relevant. Not postmodern or whatever the word we care most about is right now.

How do we update that idea? How, in 2012, can you really tell if someone is holy?

By looking at where they keep their Bible app on their smart phone.

Read the rest here, and see how your personal holiness measures up.

A Woman of Valor

The podcast I listen to while I exercise (hold the snide remarks, please) is most often the weekend messages at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I've been listening to their Lenten series on the book of Ruth, which is one of my favorite (in the top 66) books of the Bible.

So it was that yesterday I listened to this fine message by Rachel Held Evans, a blogger and speaker I follow and greatly appreciate. You can listen to it, too. I highly recommend it.

Download or listen to it here.


This snapshot provides such insight into Paul's writing:

I understand so much better now.

What Your Pastor Wants You to Know

Lysa TerKeurst--author, speaker, and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries--recently posted a lovely piece about how to bless your pastor. It will prompt an "amen" (or several) from every pastor and pastor's wife. I also hope it will prompt a wise and sympathetic response from every follower of Jesus.

She writes,
Originally, I planned on titling this message, “5 Ways to Bless Your Pastor.” But as I started interviewing Pastors and their wives about this article, I realized blessing our pastor isn’t just about doing something for him. Sometimes the biggest blessing can come from what we don’t do.

So, I retitled this blog hoping to truly give insight into what our Pastors want us to know but can’t really announce from the pulpit.
Read the rest here. And then please go and apply her counsel--immediately and often.

10 Ways (Plus One) to Keep Me Engaged in Your Message

Tony Morgan, one of my favorite bloggers, recently offered a post suggesting to preachers ten ways "to keep guys like me (who aren’t as smart as guys like you) engaged in your message." See the whole post here, but below is the ten things he lists:
1. Be real.
Let people see the actual human inside you. Most times, that will occur through your personal stories.

2. Talk like normal people talk.
I didn’t grow up in the church, so I don’t understand when you talk with a Christian accent.

3. Use humor.
If you don’t make me laugh, I’m probably going to tune you out. By the way, the best humor is revealed through your everyday life.

4. Don’t tell me what to think.
Lead me on the journey toward truth, but let me reach my own conclusions. In other words, don’t try to sell it.

5. Be honest.
If I think you’re credible, there’s a better chance I’ll think your message is credible.

6. Avoid being too polished.
In fact, I love it when you leave your prepared statements and share anything off the cuff.

7. Reveal your weaknesses.
As silly as it may seem, it makes me smile when I hear about your mistakes. It helps me to respect the areas where you are gifted.

8. Be brief.
Shorter is better. I’m probably only going to remember one or, at the most, two things that you say.

9. Make me smart.
I don’t care how smart you are, but I like it when you make me feel smart. That’s easier when you use small words and make it easy for me to apply what you’re teaching.

10. Tell me why I should care.
Help me understand why I should listen. If you don’t help me understand why it’s relevant to my life, I’ll tend to be thinking about my next blog post or my next tee time or my favorite 80s slow dance songs.

I’ve never had a seminary course on preaching, so I really don’t know anything about what it takes to prepare a good sermon. I think I’m pretty knowledgeable, though, when it comes to keeping people like me alert and engaged. Hopefully, this helps you help people like me.
It's a good list. I think it hits most of the things that make for good preaching. I think he left out one of the most important, for me, at least, and that is:

11. Help me encounter God in and through his Word while I'm listening.
This is easier, of course, if you have done so first, in the study and preparation process. But make sure it is not just a self-help message, and not just a cute or clever compilation of good ideas. Pray and fast and study and prepare for God to show up as I'm listening, and to do something in me that will change me now...and change me in the week to come.

If you can do those things, then I (and pretty much anyone) will be engaged and stay engaged.

Thinking About My Vacation Reading

In a few weeks, I'll be enjoying a vacation with my family. I can't wait. And, while having my kids and grandkids around for roughly half the week will keep me and the lovely Robin plenty busy, I still plan to do a good bit of reading. And, as I have done at various times over the last several years, part of my reading will be thematic (see the post below, which appeared previously on this blog).

Since we will be spending the week in one of our favorite vacation spots, the Westgate Resort in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I'm looking forward to reading three novels that have Tennessee connections: Cormac McCarthy's Child of God, which is set in East Tennessee, the recent Blue Hole Back Home, which is based on actual events in Signal Mountain, Tennessee (150 miles west of Gatlinburg), and maybe a re-reading of Faulkner's The Reivers, which involves journeys to and from Jefferson, Mississippi (the county seat of fictional Yoknapatawpha County), and Memphis, Tennessee.

Below is the post I wrote a year or two ago in which I further described my occasional pursuit of thematic reading:
Three or four years ago, I stumbled on an idea that has greatly enriched my reading: thematic reading. That is, each year I'll choose two or three books to read that are related in some way (theme, character, nation, etc.).

For example, a few years ago, I read two classic novels back-to-back, which were fascinating to compare and contrast: Jane Eyre (Bronte) and Rebecca (du Maurier).

The next year I re-read a personal favorite, Robinson Crusoe, and followed it with two other books: the nonfiction In Search of Robinson Crusoe (Severin) and the very imaginative novel, Foe (Coetzee).

That same year, I read three books relating to Islam: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamid), Infidel (Ali), and I Dared to Call Him Father (Sheikh).

More recent examples were:
  • two books on Nazi Germany: the nonfiction The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Shirer) and the novel, Fatherland (Harris).
  • three books whose relationship should be obvious: Psalms for Praying (Merrill), Praying the Psalms (Brueggemann), and Psalms of My Life (Bayly).
And already this year, I've read two books dealing with hostage situations: A Rope and a Prayer (Rohde/Mulvihill) and In the Presence of My Enemies (Burnham), and plan to read FOUR other pairs of related books:
  • Flaubert’s Parrot (Barnes) and Madame Bovary (Flaubert)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. (Frady) and Hellhound on his Trail (Sides)
  • Something Rotten (Fforde) and Gertrude & Claudius (Updike)
  • Arthur & George (Barnes) and The Sherlockian (Moore)
Of course, many of us read thematically because we concentrate much of our reading on a particular field or topic: leadership, perhaps, or church planting, and so on. But I've derived so much fun from intentionally choosing books that relate to each other, I'd love it if you would try it...and let me know how it goes!

Good to Know

This is an actual sign on a church's doors.

It points out several problems in our training of pastors today, such as how to spell "pastor," as well as the use of capitalization and the placement of apostrophes.

But imagine what it would be like, as a skeptic or seeker, to approach a church entrance and see this sign on the door. Would it scare you or make you curious? And are there similar (if much less obvious) signs newcomers face when they enter our churches?