Category Archives: Leadership and Church

Book Review: A Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight

Sometimes Christianity in theory collides with Christianity in every day practical life. At those times we are tempted to give up, and simply say that is the way of the sinful world, or that’s just the way it is.

Thank you Scot McKnight and your latest book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together Available on Amazon.com, for you remind us God’s better way is still the path to follow. Scot navigates that path with grace, love, table, holiness, newness and flourishing. These 6 parts of the book weave together to paint a picture of what the Church could be and even better what it can be in Christ.

What I appreciate about Scot’s style of writing is his transparency with his past (let’s just say “differents” wasn’t high on the list in his growing up years), how he faces the challenges of the present (denominations and divisive issues), and paints a picture for a potential future (what life might be like if we embraced God’s grace in Ephesians 2 beyond verses 8 and 9 through the end of the chapter).

Scot confronts present reality and offers future vision with a driving core value of unity. Turns out Scot thinks Jesus prayer for unity in John 17 wasn’t merely wishful thinking by the Savior but a vision of what our future can be in life together.

It’s way to easy to find the issues that divide that lead to barrier building. But to build unity that flows out of grace, that builds from the means of grace in the water and around the Lord’s table.

I give A Fellowship of Differents 5 out of 5 stars. I appreciated the picture Scot paints of what the church can be. I long for that unity in heaven to reveal more of itself in life on this earth. This is a great book for pastors and church leaders who tire of what divides us and long to build a church united around Christ.

Thank you to Book Look Bloggers and Zondervan for a free copy to review. I didn’t have to give a positive review just an honest one.

 

 

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Book Review: Sacred Roots by Jon Tyson

Does church matter? The answer to that question may depend on your faith background, your age, and your perception of what church is in the first place. Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters by Jon Tyson seeks to answer that question as part of the Barna Group Frames collection of quick takes that engage their church research. Their goal is to have less to read, but give more to know.

Frames books are small in size and length. They can be read in one sitting. But their message is powerful. Particularly in engaging research findings. What I appreciated about Sacred Roots is not only how it set the context of the perception of church in American society today and especially with a millennial focus, but how it responded to the situation with positive next steps.

Barna groups paints a picture with the data. Jon Tyson painted a vision of what the church is and can be. Part of Jon’s answer deals with how the church in American society has been influenced by two cultural forces: our love for entertainment and our individualistic driving focus.

Then Jon addresses the issue and does so out of his context of how he has seen church matter in our day and in his location, New York City. The challenge as he sees it is for the American church to shift back to its Sacred Roots:

1. From dabbling to devotion: Spiritual life takes top priority.

2. From transience to permanence: Stay in one place.

3. From preference to proximity: Doing life together.

4. From belief to practices: Faith in action.

Jon’s insights were the best part of this frame for me. The follow up re-frame by Rich Villodas was also helpful, but it would have been better to have someone not from New York City make a contribution. The church in America is more than what happens with the church in New York City.

I give Sacred Roots 4 out of 5 stars. Quick read. Good insights. Though I found it’s applications valuable, there was too much of a New York focus in its application.My thanks to Zondervan publishing for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.

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Book Review: Embracing Shared Ministry by Joseph H. Hellerman

Context provides understanding. To understand biblical principles of leadership, especially for team based ministry today, it is good to know the early church world and ours. That’s the great value of Joseph H. Hellerman’s book, Embracing Shared Ministry. He looks at power and status (2 key concepts in the book) at work in the early church and in our world today.

Writing with the mind of a professor and the heart of a pastor, Hellerman works through Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how its uniqueness as a Roman colony  impacts Paul’s writing of Philippians and even more Paul’s implications for leadership.

Yet his target in the book is to lift up team or even more consensus based ministry. He is opposed to the sole pastor leader who leads without any accountability or input. A major thrust of the book is dealing with the dangers of unaccountable pastors who lead in a way that does not reflect biblical values. I affirm the danger he describes, I wish he had spent more time on the solution than the problem.

What I appreciated most about Embracing Shared Ministry is the context and clarification Hellerman provided in the first two parts of the book in dealing with power and authority in the Roman world, and in the early church. His writing style provided solid scholarship as well as putting those concepts in every day understandable terms. His use of illustrations provided clarity. His use of quotes provided context.

I wish he had spent more time in digging out the treasure of his cruciform concept of leadership. That is how the cross impacts and is to influence Christian leadership today. His examples were primarily from his own experience, and his biblical context was primarily from Philippians.

I give Embracing Shared Ministry 4 out of 5 stars. I am glad I read the book for the early church background. I would have appreciated greater insight and depth to shared ministry. Those who would enjoy this book the most would be ones who want to see how leadership and life functioned in the days of the early church, and to better understand the book of Philippians. Those who need the book the most are probably the most reluctant to read it — unaccountable church leaders who fly on a solo path.

My thanks to Kregel Publishing for providing a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.

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Book Review: Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley

Great titles don’t always mean great books. In the case of Deep & Wide, great title means an even greater book. Churches that seek to reach those not connected to Jesus are often accused of being a mile wide and an inch deep. Andy Stanley makes a case for both deep and wide with a personal story of North Point’s start and even more sharing their secret sauce.

Andy Stanley is a great leader as well as communicator. He shows a prophetic flair in this book as well. He makes no apologies, holds nothing back. He states his case for creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

What Purpose Driven Church is to explaining God’s work at Saddleback through Rick Warren, Deep & Wide is the North Point story from personal pain to God’s divine work.

Yet the advantage of Deep & Wide is not only being inspired by North Point’s story, but the questions to wrestle with in one’s own church. For myself I found Deep & Wide convicting and challenging. Why do we do what we do? How could we do it better? And the most important question of all, what does God want us to do for our next step? The two key questions Andy gives for churches to wrestle with is:

1) What is the church?

2) Who is it for?

Deep & Wide doesn’t give specific answers as much as clear direction and valuable questions to find one’s own secret sauce that God has poured into us and to pour through us. As Andy says, “My goal isn’t for you to do what we do. But part of my goal is to push you to closely examine what you’re doing.” 

He pushed me — gently, firmly, and best of all in the right direction. I give Deep & Wide 5 out of 5 stars. Andy convinced me to be part of creating a church unchurched people love to attend, so that they can meet the same incredible Jesus I know and love, and even more knows and loves them.

Deep & Wide is a great resource for those who believe the church can and should be more in this world. For those who believe the call to the church is to connect all people to Jesus and not just those already in the church, Deep & Wide provides a tool for discussion and a guide for implementation.

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Part of a Moment or Movement?

In a meeting the other day, and was comparing my mission trip to Ethiopia with comments my daughter made about her trip. I had gone in 2006. My daughter in 2012. We both worked in the same area. We both climbed the same mountain. We both had met, worked with, supported and been impressed by the same pastor.

What has become a life defining moment for both of us also identified us as part of a movement. After I returned in 2006, our church didn’t stop supporting the work. We invested prayers and finances and faith. Others had gone and found their own moment.

The temptation of short term mission trips or one time financial gifts is to identify with the moment. It might be a moment of need. It might be a moment of a mountain top experience. But as Jesus teaches in His own transfiguration, there is work in the valley to do. And the good news is He goes with us. He is there in the moment. He is the source to launch a movement.

So the other night as I was meeting, I thought of that moment in 2006 and God showed me the power in 2012 of becoming part of a movement.

Where in your life do you see God working? What is He saying to you in this moment? How is He inviting you to be part of a movement?

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Learning a New Position to Play in Leadership

if leadership is like a football game, what is the best position for a leader to play? When I began in church leadership, I knew that the position of owner was already taken by God. And that’s how it should be. But what position was God calling me to play?

At first I thought I must be the coach, Ephesians 4 talks about equipping the saints to do the work of ministry, and in some ways I still identify with the position of coach. Still leadership at its best is not only a coach, but a player coach.

As I looked at players on a football team, I was drawn to offense. The goal of offense is not to react to the game, but to proactive — move the ball down the field and score points for your team.

At times leadership feels like a running back, always on the run. Yet one of the worse plays in leadership is an end run, looking for my own path than following the path of a team.

The position of quarterback is not only glamorous, but always gets to touch the ball, is often seen as the MVP of the team. For years I was attracted to this position and as a player coach looked to lead that way.

Then I heard a quote from Lyle Schaller that led me to learn a new position to play in leadership. Instead of a running back or a quarterback, Schaller talked about how leaders at their best (and senior pastors in particular) are like an offensive lineman. My job is to open holes for others to serve.

Such a perspective has not only changed my view of leadership, but also increased my joy. As I am laid out from blocking an oncoming defender and look up to see another carry the ball across the goal line, I am filled with joy. As the attention is off me, and on Christ and His work in people’s lives, I am filled with humility.

In the last few years, my level of excitement in leading has increased as I have sought to follow the promptings of the Spirit (as owner and head coach of the team), and open those Holy Spirit holes to serve, to lead, to transform now and for all eternity

As you look at leadership, what images come to mind that capture your attention to lead and to serve well?

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Soulfood for “Black” Friday: The Advent Conspiracy

For years, when I heard of “Black Friday” as the day after Thanksgiving, I thought they were referring to getting all the Christmas boxes down and the dust that gets on you as you move them from the garage to the house. (That’s my version of Black Friday). Yet I now know “Black Friday” refers to the biggest shopping day of the year.

This week’s Soul Food for Friday on this “Black Friday” comes from the Advent Conspiracy, an invitation not to get caught up in stuff, but in the Savior who comes. The following comes from their web site


The concept behind Advent Conspiracy is simple…

It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.


Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks, right? We’re asking people to consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas. Just one.  Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced something nothing less than a miracle: They have been more available to celebrate Christ during the advent season.


God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?


When Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined. Though rich, he became poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He played to the margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most. When Advent Conspiracy first began four churches challenged this simple concept to its congregations. The result raised more than a half million dollars to aid those in need. One less gift. One unbelievable present in the name of Christ.

As you get ready to celebrate Christmas this year, what helps you keep Christ at the center?

 

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