Do You Preach "Grace BUT?"

Here is a GREAT article, entitled "Why Preaching Grace Feels Dangerous," by Peter Mead:
Last Sunday I preached the first message in a series on Galatians. Paul pulled no punches and I reflected that somewhat in my message. So this morning I’ve woken up pondering this quote from Andy Stanley:

“The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word “but” to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that, we should assume that. Religious people crucified grace personified. Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.”

I wonder what proportion of gospel preachers really preach the radical message of God’s grace, and how many feel the need to qualify it and augment it and protect it? How do we over-qualify grace?
Read the rest here.

Living Color

This depiction of Psalm 119 is just all kinds of wonderful. Check it out, and take some time to browse the whole website.

A Crack in the Ministerial Armor

Jared Wilson discovered a hitherto unpublished letter by Wormwood about the subtle art of undermining a pastor.
Dearest Grubnat, my poppet, my pigsnie,

The reports of your progress warm my blackened heart. When you were assigned to one of the Enemy’s ministers ten years ago, his infernal Majesty and I knew you’d have a rough go of it. The zeal of one new to the pastorate can be a daunting challenge to even the most cunning of our comrades, but we also believed that time breeds all wounds and that your task would become easier the longer your patient remained. You now prosper from that sweet spot of pastoral fatigue and assimilation. The shine of newness is gone. And up pop the cracks in the ministerial armor.

There are many temptations common among the Enemy’s undershepherds but one universal temptation of them arises from their flesh...
Read the rest here.


One of the best measures of a great book, to my mind, is how much I find myself thinking and talking about it in the days after I finish reading it. By that measure, Leonard Sweet's latest book, Viral, is a great one.

Sweet is a favorite of mine. His scholarship, insight, creativity, vision, and energy astound me. All of that comes through in Viral. In it, Sweet characteristically provides a clear and cogent way of looking at and thinking about the present we find ourselves in. With his usual flair for coining memorable terms, he sketches the difference between one generation and the next, which he labels "Gutenbergers" (those born before 1973, the year the cell phone was invented) and "Googlers" (those born since). He demonstrates how differently--often better--Googlers think and relate, compared to Gutenberger ways.

Another measure of a great book to me is whether the author manages to challenge my assumptions and upgrade my way of thinking, while maintaining credibility. Sweet does that. For example, he says, "Books are the most antisocial technology ever invented." He points out that reading a book is a necessarily solitary proposition, while TGIF technology (which stands for Twitter-Google-iPhone-Facebook) is thoroughly social. How odd, he adds, that Gutenbergers accuse Googlers of being antisocial.

Finally, I often measure a great book by how much underlining, highlighting, notating, etc., I do while reading. By that measure, too, Viral makes the grade. Here are just some of the portions I underlined:
I am convinced that Christians need to start taking cues from the Googlers.

Gutenbergers have been far more concerned about rectitude of thoughts about God than they have on rectitude of relationship with God.

For [Gutenbergers], words serve much the same purpose as mathematical proof….[For] Googlers words are agents of change.
Googlers are not as interested in proving a point as they are in making connections.

Googlers tend to live by values that early Christians would recognize. They believe there is more truth in relationships than in propositions.

The church may wake up to find that Jesus’s time has come in TGIF culture because it is more organic than linear, more kinesis than stasis, more circle than square.

It is possible for the Word of God to be obscured by Words.

“Modern Christianity” is arguably more modern, more Gutenberger, than it is Christian.

There is no such thing as an untranslated version of Christianity.

Some Christians are so fixated on being theologically sound they are sound asleep to what God is doing.

Christians are always standing at an angle to their age.

The Bible can be a tomb or a manger.

There is nothing more evil than a Christian who has been taken over by satanic urges and doesn’t know it.

I believe in the well-turned phrase as a defense against chaos, unreason, and kitsch.

Biblical identity is bound up with the community.

Jesus is mystery, not equation. Add him up, and you still don’t have it. He didn’t come to earth so you could use him to prove a point. He is the point.

Christian spirituality is totalitarian. Jesus asks for all of our lives, not just a “spiritual” segment.

We need a mercy default where we cringe when criticizing others, where we get quickly tired of finding fault, and where we focus more on what we can learn from people we disagree with than what divides us.

Lion/Lamb, Alpha/Omega, come live/come die, first/last, Prince of Peace/wields sword, emptying/filling, exalted/humbled, saint/sinner, One/Three, transcendence/immanence, dove (innocence)/serpent (wisdom), East (intuition)/West (reason). If you’re not hearing Jesus in surround sound, you’re not hearing Jesus.

The attack mentality is Gutenberger. TGIF Culture, at least as it is captured in Facebook, is in favor of “liking” something. It has no built-in template for “disliking.” Facebook is on record as being against against. It has said no to negativity.
Oh, and one more thing. No, two. A great book, in my estimation, is entertaining and engrossing, terms that definitely describe Viral. And, a truly great book changes something: me, my mind, sometimes even the world around me. By that measurement, too, Viral is a great book, and one I recommend without reservation.

Church of the Week: Interfaith Chapel at DFW

DFW is an enormous airport. Five terminals, exactly a bajillion gates. But its interfaith chapel in Terminal A is the smallest I've ever visited, with just enough space for a table and five or six chairs.

Other than the inoffensive stained glass window, there are no decorations in the room.

On the plus side, however, it was easy to find and quiet enough for prayer on my visit last Saturday, March 24.

I've been to much nicer airport chapels, but then I don't require much. Entered in the right spirit, a table becomes an altar and a simple space becomes an anteroom of heaven.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Jesus Wants to Burst Our Bubble

ACU Press and Leafwood Publishers allowed me to guest post on their Book Club Blog. The post is an excerpt from my brand new book, Quit Going to Church, which is now available from Leafwood Publishers. Here's how it starts:
We’ve got to get intentional about spending time and living life with people who haven’t experienced new life in Christ. Most people who have been in and around the church for any length of time live in a Christian ghetto of our own making. We schedule ourselves day after day with church activities until all of our friends are Christians. We spend time only with Christians. We barely know anyone who isn’t a Christian. And believe it or not, that’s not a good thing.
Read the rest here.

A Pastor's Failings, Pt. 6

For both devoted readers of this blog, I assure you I have not run out of failings as a pastor. That's NOT why I haven't posted #6 in this series before today, though more than a month has passed since the most recent installment. Blame it on the unseasonably warm weather of late. Blame it on the devil. Blame it on--but wait, save all that blaming for another time, as maybe that's another one of my failings.

So here's another failing, something I never got a handle on (though I DID improve considerably over the years): I habitually let others set my agenda as a pastor.

A favorite author of mine, Eugene Peterson, wrote about various reasons he was "a busy pastor" (which, he explains, is NOT a compliment) in his book, The Contemplative Pastor. All of his points hit close to him. This one, however, moved in and peed on the floor:
I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day's work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. The pastor is a shadow figure in these people's minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and good will. Anything remotely religious or somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.

Because these assignments to pastoral service are made sincerely, I go along with them. It takes effort to refuse, and besides, there's always the danger that the refusal will be interpreted as a rebuff, a betrayal of religion, and a calloused disregard for people in need.
As Sheldon Cooper would say, "Bazinga!"

In my well-read copy of The Contemplative Pastor, I circled "slipshod" and wrote in the margin, "or spineless." Because that feels a little more close to the truth in my case.

I let too many people--who, as Peterson said, had a limited (if any) understanding of the pastor's work and calling set my agenda. I kowtowed to their expectations. I even tried to meet expectations I assumed people had of me. Because I wanted to do a good job--in their eyes. I wanted to be liked. And I was too spineless to say "no" with courtesy and authority.

It's a failing. A big one. And a costly one, because I might have been a better pastor than that.

How Do You Read So Much?

I was asked again the other day at a writer's conference: “How do you read so much?” It’s asked every so often, particularly when people learn that I read roughly 70 or more books a year, and last year read 100. I suspect that, once upon a time in our country and culture, that would not have been considered “so much,” by any means. I betcha folks like Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt and other fairly active, busy people of generations past read far more. But that was then, this is now. Nowadays time that may once have been spent reading is probably consumed by watching television and movies, surfing the web, fiddling around on Pinterest, and so on.

And I don’t read nearly as much as I want to. I’m constantly anxious to get back to this book or that, frequently aware that (as my bumper sticker would say if I had one), “I’d Rather Be Reading.”

Still, as an insanely busy husband, father, grandfather, and occasional writer, how do I read more than a book a week?

1. I pray. Daily. Actually, twice daily most of the time. And usually those times of prayer involve reading. So once or twice a day, I’m reading from (of course) the Bible and one or two (or three) other books. Right now those books are The Mosaic Bible and Simplifying the Soul by Paula Huston.

2. I read in the bathroom. A dear friend of mine, who has since moved away, used to stop in at my house unexpectedly every so use our first floor bathroom on his way home from work. Since we live less than fifteen minutes from where he lived at the time, I asked him once if he just couldn’t “hold it” another fifteen minutes. He explained, only half-jokingly, that he came for the reading material in the bathroom. In addition to a varied assortment of magazines (Biblical Archaeology Review, Leadership, The Christian Communicator, Poets & Writers, etc.), I keep a current book in the rack....usually one with fairly short chapters, for obvious reasons. The current tome: The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

3. I keep a book with me at all times. My wife, the lovely Robin, once expressed righteous indignation because I left the house for one of our weekly date nights with a book under my arm. “Am I such bad company,” she said, “that you need to bring a book?” I tried to explain that, no, she is sparkling, scintillating, captivating company....but that one just never knows when one might have the chance to read a page or two. She didn’t buy it. I stopped that abominable practice immediately. However, I still take a book everywhere else I go! (And, as a happy and proud iPhone user, I am able to have a book on my person at all times, anyway...I use several applications for that purpose: Stanza, Classics, iBooks, Nook for iPhone, and Kindle for iPhone).

4. I "read" while driving. I admit, there have been times in the past when I actually read a printed book while driving...but only on the expressway. But my wife disapproved that practice as well, so nowadays my “reading” in the car is via audiobooks....books on CD or on my iPhone. I also listen to audiobooks while mowing the lawn, which takes about two hours a week. In this way, I "read" about a dozen audiobooks a year.

5. I read while walking and running, particularly in Spring and Summer and early Fall, I like to listen to an audiobook while walking and running. I choose these books (like those I listen to in the car) fairly intentionally, making sure they’re not books I would want to underline or make notes in. So mostly fiction and biographies. Like Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen (the one I just finished) or Gulliver's Travels (my current audiobook) by Jonathan Swift.

6. I read while waiting in line, while eating, while waiting for someone to show up, at the doctor’s office, at the airport, etc. I even read while waiting in line to buy a book. There are hundreds of opportunities in a given week when I can steal enough time to read a page...or two...or more.

7. I watch very little television. The lovely Robin and I do DVR a few shows to watch together, but I almost never watch television alone. I’d usually rather be reading.

8. I observe a Sabbath. Once a week, I spend an entire day (as God has always said to do) observing a Sabbath--a break from doing, and a day to practice being...with God. On that day, I pray, walk, nap...and read. Most of the time it’s spiritual reading, but not always. And sometimes I read an entire book through the course of the day.

9. I retreat. I take an annual prayer retreat (sometimes more than annual), during which I talk to almost no one but God, and listen to him...primarily through the reading of his Word and other books that foster “interior conversation” with God.

10. I read on vacation. The ideal vacation for me involves a lot of time to read. In a hammock. On a beach. On a porch with a cup of coffee in hand. On the balcony of a cruise ship with a cup of coffee in hand. In a coffee shop with a cup of coffee in hand. You get the idea. (In fact, one of the things I love to do is connect my reading thematically with the place. So, on a recent vacation in Durango, Colorado, I read a couple novels set in that part of the country. On a recent cruise, I read Charles Nordhoff’s Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy. On a California vacation, during which the lovely Robin and I enjoyed a memorable drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from northern to southern California, I read Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, which visits and revisits much of that coastline.)

That about covers it, I think. By the way, in addition to the 70+ books I read each year, I also read feeds from 30+ blogs almost every day. And I peruse a couple news-related websites every day or two. And yet, with all that, I still can’t satisfy my hunger for reading. For books. For words. For the experience of turning a page in anticipation, reading a line of prose or poetry repeatedly because it’s so striking or beautiful or apt, turning a book over in my hands or closing it with gratitude. It’s one of life’s simple--and best--pleasures.

Matter of fact, gotta go. I hear a book calling my name right now.

Monday Blues

Pastor, I hope this post brightens your day, and restores your energy for your next day of work.

Post 1K

This is the 1,000th post here on the Desperate Pastor blog.


My first post, on April 25, 2009, was titled, "The Beauty of Broken Things." Now, not quite three years later, it is a little hard to believe that this blog should pass 1,000 blog posts shortly after my daily prayer blog reached 2,000 prayers posted.

In that time, I've gone from struggle to victory, from discouragement to depression to deliverance, from pastoring full-time back to writing full-time (but still, in many ways, of course, a pastor at heart). I have blogged about the Bible (32 times), books (177 times), the church (83 times), a "church of the week" (122), Cobblestone Community Church (80), conferences and retreats (only once?), creativity (13), health (35), a "laugh of the week" (66), leadership (90), ministry (84), prayer (31), preaching (49), quotes (44), staff (4), technology (27), travel (4), and a "video of the week" (113). Fifty of my posts have been "rants and riffs," and just recently I started offering a "link of the week."

I've thought many, many times about discontinuing the blog. Still do, from time to time. Still may. But for now, I'm amazed and grateful to have reached 1,000 posts, through thick and thin, an average of almost a post a day.

So, it seems as good a time as any to try to narrow down those 1,000 posts to ten favorites. Seems impossible. Not that I've been that good, that often. But I CAN be that self-adulating. So I shall give it a try. Here they are, my personal top ten--out of a thousand--Desperate Pastor posts:

1. Sense-ational Preaching

2. How I Got My Groove Back

3. How Technology Helps Me

4. Top Ten Things I've Learned as a Pastor

5. A 21st Century Epidemic

6. Me and My Prayer Journal

7. Balancing Ministry and Family

8. Pastoral Naiveté

9. The Blessings of Compline

10. Why Every Pastor Should Go to Israel

Wow, that's really hard. I would probably change the list if I thought just one or two seconds longer. So I won't.

But if you're reading this post, thank you. Thank you for whatEVER posts you read on this blog. Thank you for traveling this far with me. I hope you'll stick around and walk it with me for as long as it lasts.

Today is the Day

Today is the official release date for my latest book, Quit Going to Church.

Len Sweet calls it “an astonishing book.” Steve Sjogren says, “Bob Hostetler has given us a great gift with this book.” And C. S. Lewis says, “You must buy this book!” Okay, I might have made that last one up. But the other two are genuine, as are the others on this page.

Quit Going to Church is intended to identify and correct some of the ways we have forgotten--or departed from--the way of Jesus. It may raise your hackles. It may challenge you in unexpected ways. It may also renew your faith.

You can read the first chapter (free!) here. It can be purchased at your local Christian bookstore, on Amazon, at, or by contacting me.

Church of the Week: Collierville First Baptist Church, Collierville, TN

I presented last week at an American Christian Writers Conference in Collierville, TN, a suburb of Memphis.

The conference was held at the hunormous Collierville First Baptist Church. The main sanctuary (just a few years old) must seat thousands (a wedding was taking place that day).

The atrium is likewise spacious, and welcoming.

The Cornerstone bookstore In the lobby area wasn't open, but I peeked in...longingly.

Though I didn't worship there, I enjoyed snooping--er, walking around the church. It seems to be a vibrant and prospering community of faith.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Exit Signs

Thom S. Rainer wrote this article, which I read on I thought it might interest the readers of this blog.

Early in my ministry, I served in a ministry that made the "when to leave" decision FOR me. But four of these five reasons have been factors in my past ministry transitions. How about you?
I would never pretend to know the will of God for leaders. Indeed I am reticent even to suggest these reasons lest someone grasp one or more and leave his or her position of leadership prematurely.

Nevertheless I interviewed dozens of leaders I respect. One of the simple questions I asked them was: How did you know it was time to leave your previous position of leadership?

Their responses were fascinating. I have attempted to synthesize their most frequent answers into five succinct reasons. Excluded are those situations where a leader was forced from his position.

1. The Death of a Vision

The most frequent response was the death of a vision for the leader. The reasons the vision died were numerous. One leader said the obstacles in the organization became so great that he could no longer lead with vision. Another said that entrenched policies of the organization were counter to his vision. In every case the leader felt grief because the vision that caused him to get up each morning with enthusiasm was no longer a reality.

2. An Awakening to the Bad Fit

Some leaders come to a point in their leadership where they realize that they do not have the skills, temperament, or desires to lead their organization. Many said that the organization changed after a period of time, and their profile no longer matched the position. Others noted that they had not kept pace with external changes sufficiently to lead effectively.

3. Losing a Power Struggle

One of the unfortunate realities of leadership is the power struggle with another leader or group. And if a battle is lost, it is often difficult to regain the stature necessary to lead effectively.

4. Family Issues

A number of leaders told us they made the decision to leave for the sake of their families. The specific family issues were almost as numerous as the respondents. One leader recalled the sad story of his son being bullied at the only school in the small community. Despite his pleas and protestations to teachers and administrators, the bullying continued. The leader left for the safety and sanity of his son.

5. The Vision “There” Is Greater than the Vision “Here”

I thought this reason would be the most frequent; instead it ranked fifth among the reasons to leave. Stated simply, the leader has another opportunity, and the vision for the new opportunity becomes greater than the vision of the present opportunity. The leader’s heart has already moved to another place.

This list is obviously not exhaustive. Why did you leave your previous place of leadership? Would your response fit within one of these five categories?

Life is too short to spend time in a place we shouldn’t be. Yes, transition can be difficult, and even risky. But the greater risk is wasting our lives in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sometimes it’s time to leave.

This article comes from Baptist Press. Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. Used by permission.

A Fascinating Discovery

This article is about a fascinating archaeological discovery, and one that has many interesting parallels to events in my novel, The Bone Box, about the discovery of an ossuary in the same area.

New Covenant Pastoring

Here is an excellent post (no surprise) from Ray Ortlund:
“For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death!” Deuteronomy 31:27

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

Moses ministered the old covenant. Paul ministered the new covenant.

Moses looked at his people and said, “You sorry bunch of rebels, I’ve had to watch you like a hawk. And the moment I die, I know what’s going to happen. You’re going to run from God so fast . . . .” Paul looked at his people and said, “Sure, you have problems. But I’m not worried about you. God is at work in you, and you’re going to be just fine.”

As a pastor under the new covenant, it is not my job to manage anyone’s sanctification for them. They do not need negative scrutiny; they deserve gospel encouragement. Should problems be addressed along the way? Sure. But the main thing to communicate is confidence, because God is at work in them. That work is sacred. That work can be trusted. I am walking among living miracles of God.

How to Prepare for a Sermon

None other than Spurgeon hisself said:
One thing more, and it is this. Let us, dear brethren, try to get saturated with the gospel. I always find that I can preach best when I can manage to lie a-soak in my text. I like to get a text, and find out its meaning and bearings, and so on; and then, after I have bathed in it, I delight to lie down in it, and let it soak into me. It softens me, or hardens me, or does whatever it ought to do to me, and then I can talk about it. You need not be very particular about the words and phrases if the spirit of the text has filled you; thoughts will leap out, and find raiment for themselves. Become saturated with spices, and you will smell of them; a sweet perfume will distill from you, and spread itself in every direction; — we call it unction. Do you not love to listen to a brother who abides in fellowship with the Lord Jesus? Even a few minutes with such a man is refreshing, for, like his Master, his paths drop fatness. Dwell in the truth, and let the truth dwell in you. Be baptized into its spirit and influence, that you may impart thereof to others. If you do not believe the gospel, do not preach it, for you lack an essential qualification; but even if you do believe it, do not preach it until you have taken it up into yourself as the wick takes up the oil. So only can you be a burning and a shining light.

Book Giveaway Winners Announced

The Goodreads giveaway of my new book, Quit Going to Church, ended yesterday. Copies are being mailed today. Thank you to the 576 people who entered the contest, and congratulations to the winners:

Sean W.
John L.
Eden H.
Anjali N.
Barbara L.
Robin D.
Jenny R.
Ashley K.
Nicole P.
Karen D.

Sound Good?

A brilliant and effective presentation, from which everyone involved in ministry can and should learn:

Book Winner Announced

The winner of the free copy of Healing Your Church Hurt has been decided, and certified by Scoopers and Plybrand. Drum roll, please:

Soccerkidsmom, you're the winner! Congratulations.

Now, since I have no idea who you are or where you'll live, you'll have to comment or email me with your name and address, and I'll mail out the copy as soon as possible.

Church of the Week: Church of the Apostles, Atlanta

The lovely Robin, our daughter Aubrey, and I were in Atlanta this past weekend for a family wedding. While driving around the area, I noticed an impressive church right off I-75 at the W. Paces Ferry exit. I thought at first glance it had to be a Roman Catholic Church, judging from the size and style of the edifice. I searched on my iPhone and discovered it is the Church of the Apostles, an evangelical Anglican church.

So, after dropping off loved ones at the Atlanta airport early Sunday morning, I dropped into a Starbucks for an hour before heading to the Church of the Apostles (right around the corner from Starbucks, which indicates to me the loving providence of God) for the 9 a.m. worship service, the first of two the church offers.

It was super easy to find the church--you almost can't miss it from any vantage point in the area. And it was also easy to park in the church's multi-story parking garage, attached to the church building by covered walkways.

I entered and was greeted warmly, not only by a security officer and a woman at the welcome counter, but by numerous people as they walked past. It's in the South, I know, but still it was lovely to be smiled at and greeted so frequently.

I had a few minutes to wander around, so I did. I entered the main sanctuary, which was largely empty (it is used for the 10:30 a.m. service, but not for the 9 a.m.). It seats thousands. And, in striking contrast to many of the big-black-box churches of more contemporary design, the interior is beautifully appointed in every detail: wood panelling, quality furniture, just beautiful.

The stained windows and walls throughout the church are likewise beautiful, with many original artworks, such as a series of eleven panels by sculptor Alice Proctor, telling the story of Moses. This is the panel of the pillar of fire and cloud which led the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings.

With the help of a greeter, I made my way to the Ayoub Memorial Chapel, where the 9 a.m. service is held (while numerous classes for all ages are going on throughout the church).

I found my seat a few minutes early. At exactly 8:55 the worship band began playing--a cool jazz rendition of "Ain't No Rock." I thought, I'm home! I think I smiled through the whole thing (I have long wondered why more churches don't employ jazz, a musical style that in its various forms appeals to many different ages and personalities).

Then vocalists joined the worship band (above), the congregation stood, and we were led in a fine rendition of "Humble King," which led me into tearful worship, and "He is Lord," sung in the second person ("You are Lord").

After a short worship block, pastoral prayer, offering, and a vocal selection of "We Shall Behold Him," founding pastor Dr. Michael Youssef rose to speak. He gave a fine message on "The End of History & You" from 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12. A song followed, and a blessing, and I headed back to the hotel minutes after 10 a.m.

It was a wonderful worship experience, the most blessed (apart from being led in worship regularly by my own son) I've had in a long time. I loved every minute of it, and hope to worship there any time I am in the Atlanta area. You should, too.

Jesus in the Wilderness

To aid your experience of Lent, here is a fine video of Jesus' forty days in the wilderness--forty illustrations by illustrator Si Smith set to an Explosions In The Sky song. Don't just watch it, though. It's great for meditation.

The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Pastor

This post by Stephen Altrogge, could not be more right, more true, more apt, more utterly on-the-money. See if you don't agree.

Healing Your Church Hurt

Some books are well-written. Some are well-timed. Some are well-grounded, in good theology, life experience, or research. Some are well-planned and well-paced. But Stephen Mansfield's Healing Your Church Hurt is all of the above.

I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone. Stephen Mansfield is the New York Times bestselling author of The Faith of George W. Bush and Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, among others, so the fact that the book is well-written is fairly predictable.

He was a pastor for twenty years, so the sound and effective biblical teaching he offers is unsurprising.

He also suffered a series of devastating betrayals from elders and others in the church he served that brought his ministry to a hurtful and unfair conclusion. So the fact that he knows whereof he speaks is no great shock, either.

And he has walked the difficult but redeeming path that leads to healing and wholeness himself, so the utter helpfulness of the book and the vulnerability and transparency with which he writes is understandable, too. And the subsequent success and joy he has found as an author, speaker, and consultant make the hope and encouragement he offers the reader understandable.

Especially impactful for me were his recurring references to the story of Paul and Barnabas--and John Mark--that unfold through various parts of the New Testament, and his solid, solid, solid discussion of the deep and frequent hurt that can come from a poor or incomplete theology, particularly as it regards us fallen human beings.

Healing Your Church Hurt (subtitled What to do when you still love God but have been wounded by his people) is a wonderful people. I say that sincerely, and without qualification. If you have been hurt by a church--or by a series of churches--I couldn't more highly recommend a book than I do this one. It can help you, if you read it, if you let it.

You can read the first chapter here. AND you can win a free copy of the book by commenting on this post by 5 p.m. Monday, March 5. You don't have to be profound. You don't even have to say anything much at all. Just leave a comment. The winner will be chosen at random from all commenters.


(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”)

Church Bullies

Wow. I know "bullying" is the latest "thing" in the media and elsewhere. But it's a "thing" because it's a thing. And it doesn't just happen in schools and workplaces. It can happen in churches. Author Margaret W. Jones, PhD, writes:
At first I didn’t even recognize the mistreatment I suffered in my church was a form of bullying. I thought bullying ended when I graduated from high school. After I was expelled from my third church in the town where I live, I kept trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I get along with people?
It's a compelling article, by the author of Not Of My Making (Bullying, Scapegoating, and Misconduct in Churches). Read the rest of the article here.

Eight Ways to Pray During Sermon Preparation

Michael McKinley recently posted a terrific article on the excellent 9Marks blog, entitled, "Eight Ways to Pray During Sermon Preparation." Though I must admit my most frequent prayer--not only during sermon preparation but in ministry (shoot, in LIFE!)--is not listed.

That prayer? "Lord, help!"