Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Building Your Leadership Library

My friend Josh Evans recently posted a list of leadership books that he recommends. His list was good (although I haven't read most of them), but I think he left a few excellent titles off. Because of that, I decided to create a list of my own.

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler.

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey.

The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker by Brad Lomenick.

Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley.

Of course, my list and Josh's list don't completely exhaust the topic of leadership. However, our lists are a great place to start if you want to get serious about improving your leadership abilities.

So, Apparently I'm Too Conservative?!?

I found out last night that I'm too conservative. What exactly does that mean? Is it possible for a person to be too conservative?

  • Is a person too conservative if he loves Jesus first and foremost?
  • Is a person too conservative if he puts a strong emphasis on the Bible?
  • Is a person too conservative if he believes there is a certain way to live, according to the Bible?
  • Is a person too conservative if he wants to see people put their faith in Christ?
  • Is a person too conservative if he wants to see a youth group grow and reach other students?
  • Is a person too conservative if he thinks that "the way we've always done it" isn't necessarily the best way?

If the things above make a person "too conservative," then, yeah, I guess I am. And I'm not apologizing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review - The Gospel Call and True Conversion by Paul Washer

Paul Washer is the author of The Gospel Call and True Conversion. This is a book that examines what true conversion looks like. So many are plagued with the “easy belief” that is so prevalent in our society. This is especially true in youth ministry, where too often becoming a Christian becomes nothing more than just praying a prayer and putting on a tie.

Right off the bat, Washer lays out eight characteristics of genuine repentance. These characteristics are:

  • Change of mind
  • Sorrow for sin
  • Personal acknowledgment and confession of sin
  • Turning away from sin
  • Renunciation of self-righteousness or good works
  • Turning to God
  • Practical obedience
  • Continuing and deepening work of repentance

The book is broken into three parts. Part One is The Gospel Call, detailing salvation. Part Two is New Hearts and the Nature of True Conversion. Part Three is New People and the Nature of True Conversion.

I would recommend this particular book, if for nothing other than the opening section dealing with what genuine repentance looks like. As I said above, this is an area of deep concern and necessary focus in youth ministry. This is an excellent resource for helping youth workers understand what true conversion looks like, though it may be a bit over the heads of the teenagers they are working with.

Purchase your copy of The Gospel Call and True Conversion from Amazon.com. The Kindle version is also available.

I received The Gospel Call and True Conversion for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. 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.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review - Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

From time to time, I like to read books that strike my interest. They can be business books, leadership books, or just interesting non-fiction titles. The book that I just finished reading was Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. This is a book about why certain things die on the vine and other things go viral, even if they seem extremely ridiculous.

Dr. Berger has broken down the idea of going viral into six different areas. They seemed simple, but, as I look back on them, I can completely understand where he is coming from. I guess that is why he gets the big money.

The six areas are as follows:
  • Social Currency - We share things that make us look good or help us compare favorably to others.
  • Triggers – Ideas that are top of mind spread.
  • Emotion – When we care, we share.
  • Public – People tend to follow others, but only when they can see what those others are doing.
  • Practical – Humans crave the opportunity to give advice and offer tips
  • Stories - People do not just share information, they tell stories.
I am reviewing this book here because there are so many implications for making the Gospel go viral. For example, if students are aware of the emotions dealing with their friends and relatives on their way to eternity without Christ, they will be more likely to share the Gospel with those individuals. If they have a story of life change, they will share that story with others.

I realize that Dr. Berger did not write this Contagious: Why Things Catch On for ministry. However, there are so many ideas and tactics in the book that I think it is a must-read for youth pastors and others who want to make the Gospel go viral.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Are You Called to Ministry?

Last week I wrote an article on three things to do if you feel that you are being called to ministry. I came across an article by Dr. Albert Mohler that addresses this issue as well. It was an excellent read on the topic and goes along with what I wrote in my post. Here is an excerpt: Has God called you to ministry? Though all Christians are called to serve the cause of Christ, God calls certain persons to serve the Church as pastors and other ministers. Writing to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul confirmed that if a man aspires to be a pastor, “it is a fine work he aspires to do” (1 Tim 3:1, NASB). Likewise, it is a high honor to be called of God into the ministry of the Church. How do you know if God is calling you? If you would like to read more, please visit his site for the full article.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Homosexuality and Youth Ministry

With the recent Supreme Court decisions about same-sex marriage, the issue of homosexuality is going to be a big topic in the church for quite some time. Because the teenage years are the formative years for sexuality, it is vital that a youth pastor be prepared to minister to the gay teenagers that will inevitably begin showing up in youth group.

Some time ago, I recommended a book written by my friend Shawn Harrison. Shawn wrote Ministering to Gay Teenagers as a resource for youth leaders. When Shawn gave a presentation on this topic at SYMC 2013, the copies of the book sold out quickly.I read it in an afternoon, so it is a quick read, but it is packed with important guidelines for sharing Christ's love. I can't recommend this book anymore highly. It is a tool that every youth pastor must have.


Buy your copy at Amazon.com.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Three Places I Wanted to Visit At Disney World

The Disney World resort is huge. We were there for seven days (five days in the parks) and there was still a lot of stuff that we weren't able to do. I think if we had spent all five days at just the Magic Kingdom, we still wouldn't have been able to do everything. Here are three places that I wanted to visit while we were at Disney World that are at the top of my list the next time we go.

The first place is Casey's Corner. This is a little restaurant at the end of Main Street when you come into the Magic Kingdom. It is right where you come into the big "open" area in front of the castle. Outside the restaurant are statues of old-timey baseball players. I saw a video about the best place to get snacks and Casey's Corner was one of those places. We walked by it, but there was always a big crowd inside, so we were never able to stop and grab a bite. I thought about doing it the night we went for the fireworks and parade, but there were so many people that I couldn't even wiggle or someone would take my spot.

The second place is Tom Sawyer's Island. To be honest, I don't really know much about this spot. I read and heard that it is pretty exciting and you have to take a boat to get there. I really love the book Tom Sawyer and have always wanted to be a part of the Tom Sawyer adventure. We didn't make it over there because our boys had a limited amount of energy and there was a lot they wanted to do. I got them to go on the Jungle Cruise and Pirates, but then it was off to the Dumbo ride (and the really awesome playground) and It's a Small World. Next time, we are definitely going to check it out.

The third place is the Haunted Mansion. I've heard really good things about this ride and I do enjoy a creepy ride from time to time. My kids are pretty small (the oldest is 7), so this didn't seem like a good idea for this trip. Our plan is to try for a trip down in about 2-3 years, so (hopefully) at least one of the boys can ride with me. If not, I'll go by myself. But definitely doing this one next time.



I realize that all of these places are in the Magic Kingdom. There are a lot of other places that I want to visit, particularly in Epcot. I guess I will need to visit Disney a lot in order to do everything.

What places do you want to visit, but never made it to?



A great resource to find out about the Walt Disney resort and all of the wonderful places to visit is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2013. We used it to plan our trip and it was incredible.


Monday, July 15, 2013

The Gospel According to Candy Crush

Are you familiar with the game Candy Crush?  Sadly, I am.  I’ve been playing this ridiculous game for way too long and not really getting anywhere.  For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it is a free game where you attempt to match colored candies in order to complete tasks.  The first levels are pretty simple and easy to get through, but as a player advances, the levels become increasingly more difficult.  Some are nearly impossible. 



To help players advance through these levels, the producers of the games have “power-ups” that can be purchased.  Candy Crush is the top grossing game on iPad and iPhone.

When I was growing up, my Christian faith was similar to Candy Crush.  I was told that I could accept salvation for free, but, after that, there were all sorts of things I had to do to keep progressing.  I had to read my Bible so many times per week.  I had to witness to so many people.  There were all these things that I had to do or I wasn’t a good Christian.  I remember being told in college that I should read my Bible for an hour day or I wasn’t in the “will of God.”

The Gospel doesn’t work that way.  There is nothing that I need to do that will make God love me more.  I don’t have “buy” advancement into the Kingdom.  I read my Bible, go to church, and witness because I want to grow closer to God, not because it makes Him love me more.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Planning Our Disney World Vacation - Resources to Check Out




Recently my wife and I took our family on a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.  We have four boys (all 7 and under), so this was a pretty big feat for us.  We were able to get a really good deal on a resort just a few minutes from the Disney World resort area and I received a great deal on tickets to the park through work.  We rented a car and drove from Charles Town, WV to Orlando (again, this was a huge undertaking).  While all of this sounds like a ton of work (it was), it was worth every minute to see how excited our boys were.


My wife and I are planners.  We agonized over detail of our trip, even to the point where we tried to plan out the rides and activities we wanted to do at each park.  To help with this, she and I used several books and websites to help us prepare.  If you are planning a Disney trip, I would highly suggest you take a look at these resources to help you make the most of your trip.

Books

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2013 - This is an excellent resource.  It covers every aspect of what a trip to Disney World with kids looks like.  The book covers nearly every ride in each of the parks and how your kids will relate to the ride.  There are also sections about the resorts and restaurants if you choose to utilize those options.  A few years ago, I met the author of the book at the Magic Kingdom and he was kind enough to give me a copy of the book.





Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2013 - We also used this book.  It has some great pictures and information, but I did not find it quite as helpful as the Unofficial Guide.  I would make this a secondary resource.







Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids 2013 - We got this book for our kids.  My oldest son pored over this book for hours trying to find what they wanted to do when we arrived.  This is a great book to share with your kids.



Websites

There are a number of Disney-related websites, but the three below are the ones I used pretty extensively.  There is a lot of really great information and you should take time to check them out.  My favorite is WDWinfo.com where you can find examples of the menus from each restaurant at the parks.

AllEars.net

MouseSavers.com

WDWinfo.com

Visiting Walt Disney World is an awesome experience.  I love going there and can't wait until we have the opportunity to go again.  However, a trip like this requires a good deal of planning.  There is so much to do that if you don't have a plan, you will get overwhelmed very fast.  Make use of the resources and have a great time!

All of the books shown above are available at Amazon.com, your local bookstore, and (if you are lucky like we were) your local public library. Happy planning!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The NKJV Ignite: The Bible For Teens


 I'm pretty excited about the opportunity to get this new Bible, the NKJV Ignite: The Bible for Teens. I can't offer much in the way of a recommendation right now, but it looks awesome and I can't wait to take a look at it. I think this will be a great tool for youth pastors to share with their students, especially if our goal is to get them into God's Word on a regular basis.

I'll be posting a review of the Bible after it arrives, but if you are interested in getting a copy for yourself or for one of your students, you can check it out at Amazon.com.

Ten Scripture Passages to Memorize

One of the most under-utilized biblical disciplines is Scripture memorization. Very few people put a lot of time into memorizing the Bible, myself included. I used to spend a lot of time doing it, but seem to have fallen off the wagon in recent months. It is an area of my life that I am making a concerted effort to improve. As a youth pastor, I expect my students to "hide God's Word in their hearts," so I need to be doing the same myself.

The other day David Mathis wrote at a great article at Desiring God called "Ten Passages for Pastors to Memorize Cold." He offers some great commentary on why we should memorize those passages. I'll let you read the article to get the commentary, but below are the passages he says all pastors should know.

  • Psalm 23:1-6
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • Psalm 46:1-11
  • Colossians 1:15-20
  • Philippians 3:7-11
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • Romans 8:28-39
  • Numbers 6:24-26
  • Jude 24-25

I am going to make it my goal to memorize those passages as soon as I can to keep working on learning them until they become second nature. How about you? Anyone up for a challenge?

What other passages would you add to this list? What are you currently working to memorize?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What To Do If You Feel Called to Ministry

The call to ministry is a huge thing. It is not something that should be taken lightly and it is not something that should be jumped at too rapidly. In James 3:1, it says that not many people should want to become teachers because they will face a stricter judgment. Those of us who want to be pastors should really think it over because God is going to judge us more severely for what we do in His name.


I was called to ministry when I was in high school. My youth pastor took a few of us to Trinity Baptist College for a youth conference. I also think he wanted us to go there because that was his college. During the conference, I began to feel God's call on my life. I don't think He was calling me to a particular ministry; He was just letting me know that I was His and He was claiming me.

If you are experiencing the same thing, here are three things to do to make sure this is the calling on your life.

  1. Pray. This should be pretty self-explanatory, but it is amazing how many overlook this aspect. Pray and ask God to verify the calling on your life. Pray to make sense of what you are feeling. Pray. Can't really say much more.
  2. Prepare for ministry. Preparation looks different for everyone. For me, I began to help out at my church and in my youth group. I went to college to study Bible (changed my major, but more on that later). I volunteered at my church and taught Sunday School. I went to seminary. How you prepare will probably be different from how I prepared. God may call you to seminary, He might not. But you must prepare. You must practice and you must hone your chops. There is no shortcut.
  3. Have others verify your calling. Many people jump into ministry, only to find out they aren't really meant to be there. They can't preach. They have no gifts for ministry. And that is okay. It is very important that others in ministry verify and confirm the calling of God on your life. Your mom is not the one to confirm your call. In my life, my youth pastor and pastor confirmed my calling. Other pastors have confirmed that God is at work in my life and my ministry. If there is no confirmation of your gifts, this may not be your calling.
I realize that some of what I wrote may not be an easy pill to swallow. I have had the opportunity to speak with individuals who are feeling a call and these are the things that we talk about. If you are feeling the same thing, I would suggest that you look to see how your prayer life, your preparation, and your verification are lining up (that is the worst outline ever...good thing this isn't a homilectical outline.)


Monday, July 8, 2013

Looking For A Ministry Job - Lessons I've Learned

Many of you know that I am currently looking for a ministry position. I was serving at a church until January 2013 when I resigned in order to be done with a great deal of drama. The past six months have been a bit of a challenge, to say the very least. Here are three lessons I've learned during my search for the right church.

  1. The search is not an easy one. If you are looking, you can expect it to take a long time. I have sent out many, many resumes and had very little response. Some churches never respond. Others will turn you down immediately. The best thing to do is prepare yourself for the long haul.
  2. Be careful with your emotions. It is way too easy to get your hopes up about one particular job, only to have them dashed later. I have been interviewed, videoed, interviewed again, only to have the church go in another direction. Be careful not to get too excited about what is happening. It is appropriate to pray for a particular church. Just be careful not to get too caught up one possible job.
  3. Keep trusting God. I have had some really low moments during my search. After I was rejected by three churches in the same week, I was ready to hang it up. If I wasn't called to ministry, I would have given up months ago. Surround yourself with loved ones and friends who will keep you going and, by all means, keep your eyes on God. Only He will get you through the dark days.

If you are searching for a job, keep your head up. Know that God has called you to ministry and that He has a plan. Remember this, even when it seems like the search will never end. I'm praying for you.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review - NIV Leadership Bible

I am a collector of Bibles. I have quite a number of Bibles, including the ESV Study Bible, an ESV Journaling Bible, and a NKJV Study Bible that was given to me at my ordination. The newest Bible in my collection is the NIV Leadership Bible.

In full disclosure, I am not a fan of the New International Version. It has never been high on my list, but I absolutely love my copy of the NIV Leadership Bible. The binding, a combination of caramel and dark caramel leathers, is beautiful. The layout inside the Bible is very neat and easy to read. The font for the print is rather large, but not large print.

What makes this Bible unique are the devotionals included in the text. These devotionals are geared specifically for individuals who are in leadership positions or who would like to grow as leaders in light of what the Bible has to say. There are 52 different topics, ranging from character and priorities to servant leadership to conflict management and stewardship. Each of the topics is addressed for a week. The week begins with a longer passage to read, followed by a devotional thought. Each day after that has addition Scripture to read and questions to ponder.

The format for the weekly devotion follows this pattern:

  • Day 1 - Passage to be read
  • Day 2 - _____ and Who God Is
  • Day 3 - _____ and Who I Am
  • Day 4 - _____ and How It Works
  • Day 5 - _____ and What I Do

Also included throughout the text are different insights that are provided for the reader and his continued growth. It is quite obvious that the editors of this Bible are interested in growing godly leaders, ones who are interested in using God's Word as their basis and not just the latest theories from outside Scripture. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of the NIV Leadership Bible for your leadership library.

Please note: I received a free copy of the NIV Leadership Bible in exchange for an honest review of the book. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.