Monday Resources

Most Mondays, I post some resources that I think might interest you.  If they don’t, this may just not be your week.  However, perhaps at least one of these resources will be interesting.  Of course, posting these links does not mean that I agree with every idea in the resource.  I am simply sharing with you a few resources that interested me this week.

Articles

Many of us have been following the story of Southwest Flight 1380 and the emergency landing in Philadelphia (The plane had left New York bound for Dallas-Ft.Worth).  This article, “Inside Southwest Flight 1380, 20 minutes of Chaos and Terror” was one of the best articles I read regarding this incident.

Are you familiar with Theos, a UK think tank? (Part of the British and Foreign Bible Society.)  This week I read two papers published by Theos.  One was by Ben Ryan, “Christian Funders and Grant-Making, an Analysis.”  (Since a part of my work includes helping to raise money for Harding School of Theology, this interested me.)  I also read a paper that might interest you by Nick Spencer, “Doing Good: A Future for Christianity in the 21st Century.

Ok, see this excellent article that I read this week regarding work habits, “3 Rules I Use to Stay Productive and Not Overwhelmed.”  I read this twice and I may read it a third time!  Like many of you (I suspect), I have much to do and sometimes get frustrated when I leave undone something that is important.  Articles like this are helpful to me.  Sometimes in reading an article like this one, it occurs to me an adjustment that I could make in the way I do my work that could really make a big difference both in my productivity and how I feel.

Books

Right now I am reading two books.  First I am reading Scott Sauls, From Weakness to Strength, 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership.  This is an excellent book!  This is a slow read because I often stop and reflect on what was said.  The other book I am reading is Israel Galindo’s book, Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in Congregational Context.  Helpful!

Monday Resources

Articles

Google’s astounding new search tool will answer any question by reading thousands of books” in Quartz (April 14, 2018) by Anne Quito.  This is interesting.  Try asking a few questions to Talk to Books.  I have done a search or two using this technology and the results made me want to come back.

World View” in Comment (March 1, 2018) by James K.A. Smith.  This column is one reason why I subscribe to Comment.  In this particular issue, he talks about his travels (most of these are apparently speaking engagements.)  Some places are well known.  Many others are not.  In this particular issue, he speaks with such endearment and respect toward the locations that he has visited.  I find this very engaging and refreshing.  (Far too often, in my opinion, writers will speak of small, out of the way places almost condescendingly with little, if any, appreciation for what they offer.)

If you happen to read the above article by Smith, don’t miss his fine editorial in the same issue,  “EDITORIAL: Is The University Worth Saving?

10 Ways to Prepare for a TED Style Talk” by Nancy Duarte.  Let me tell you — I read everything Nancy Duarte writes about preparing talks, communication, etc.  She is one of the finest communication professionals you will fine anywhere today.  I have been reading her for a number of years.

Books

For the last week, I have been reading Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context (edited by Israel Galindo).   This is a fine book which you will probably enjoy if you enjoy the works of Edwin Friedman, Peter Steinke, and Margaret Marcuson.

Bonus

Don’t miss this one!  “Learn How to Fold a World-Record-Setting Paper Airplane” in Wired (March 30, 2018).  Don’t miss the video!

Yes, I Have Been Afraid

(Ministry Stories)

I had been preaching in Waco, Texas for about a year.  Of course, I had already had some difficult experiences in the fifteen years of preaching before that.  At times, I was nervous before some meetings, particularly if I wasn’t quite sure what to do or say.  On some occasions, I was nervous before counseling an individual or couple.  So much was on the line.  Would I say the right thing?

On this Sunday morning, I was particularly nervous.  I had learned days before that I had a large tumor on my spine.  I was to have surgery in the middle of June (1994).  The surgery meant opening my chest.  Never having had surgery before, all of this was a new experience.  The doctor thought it was benign.  Yet, that was little comfort to me.  I wanted to know for sure.

That Sunday morning, I told the congregation that I was about to have surgery and that, according to the surgeon,  I would be recovering much of the summer.  I gave what information I had and then to them that I would appreciate their prayers and that Charlotte and I had already been praying about this for several weeks.  I then said:

I am cautiously optimistic and scared to death.

The church was very gracious and supportive.  That morning, they prayed for us and communicated their love for our family.

A former minister was present that morning.  During lunch, he called our home and asked if we could meet that afternoon.  Later in the afternoon, I met with him and was taken aback by what he said:

You shouldn’t have told the church that you were “scared to death.”  They must not know this.  They need to hear that you trust God.

I told him that I do trust God!  I trust that he will be with me through the whole ordeal.  I then told him that nevertheless, my emotions are raw and yes, I am afraid and nervous.  Yet, I was trusting God regardless of these emotions.

What does it mean to move forward in your life?  It means to trust God regardless of what your emotions may be telling you.  It means to trust God when you face the unknown.  It means to trust God even when there are obstacles and hurdles.

Courage is not about putting on a brave face or pretending that nothing fazes you.  Courage is not bravado while you talk about how you’ve “been around the block.”

Courage is daring to trust God – regardless.

(I had the surgery and the tumor was benign.  Yet through that experience, I learned so much about trusting God.)

 

 

Monday Resources

The following are articles/books that I have recently read.  Some of these are podcasts that I have listened to.  You might find these interesting or helpful in some way.  As you might have guessed, I am simply sharing some interesting resources.  These are not necessarily recommendations or endorsements.

Books

Recently, while traveling I finished Jack Deere’s new book Even in Our Darkness.  This is an autobiographical account of this minister, author, former professor that is honest and transparent.

Also just finished Grace and Peace written by friends and colleagues of David Worley of Austin.  I didn’t know David well but did have a few lengthy conversations with him in the last few years.  So impressed with his heart and his generosity.

Video

Recently in a Wednesday evening class, I saw video presentations by Dr. Monte Cox based on his new book Significant Others.  The videos and book are all about understanding our non-Christian neighbors.  I was so impressed with the content and the tone of these videos.  You can find them here.

Podcasts

I try to keep up with a variety of podcasts.  Each week, I will listen to a few of these.  (Usually while in the car.)  Recently I listened to podcast from Akimbo (Seth Godin), Amanpour (CNN’s Christiana Amanpour), The Faith Angle (Jonathan Merritt and Kirsten Powers), and Kingdom Roots (Scot McKnight).

Monday Resources

Each week

Some of my favorite reading each week includes the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal; the series “How I Work” in Lifehacker, and “Sunday Routine” in The New York Times.  I typically skim Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed and Jame K. A. Smith’s Comment.

Recently read

Recently, I read Brad Lomenick’s, H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle.  A fairly short book but full of some wonderful suggestions and a reminder of some important principles.  I was glad I read it.

Graham Allcott has written a nice piece in Productive Magazine, “Morning Pages.”

You might enjoy this article by Kathy Keller (Tim Keller’s spouse) “Lessons Learned from Thirty Years in Ministry.”  I have such great respect for Tim and Kathy Keller and always learn something from these kinds of reflections.

Maybe something here will be helpful or at least interesting.

Preaching to the “Old People”

(Ministry Stories)

Years ago, Charlotte and I moved to Dallas from Tennessee.  This was a temporary move.  Ultimately, we would move to Abilene, Texas where we would both go to graduate school.  However, at this point, we were in Dallas trying to get our finances in order so that we could move.  We lived in Dallas for about eight months where we worked and saved for the fall semester.  During this time, I also took a few courses at Amberton University, as well as a satellite campus of ACU, where I took a wonderful class taught by Paul Faulkner, in which he said much about life and ministry.

I began preaching for a small church outside of Dallas on Sundays.  This church was located close to Lake Ray Hubbard.  I knew an older couple who were members there and they had recommended me to the elders.

I  remember my first Sunday well.  We were walking from our car into the church building when this same couple whom I had known for many years, saw us.  The gentleman, about seventy years of age, said, “Let me encourage you to not speak real long.  The old people here don’t like long sermons.”

It struck me as a rather odd comment on my first day at this church.  Nevertheless, I assumed he had good intentions and went into the church building.  At the appropriate time, I began to preach.  A few minutes later, I looked to my left and saw this same man slumped down in his pew with his head cocked to one side.  He was sound asleep with his mouth open wide.  This was the man who didn’t like “long” messages.  I have some interesting memories of our short time with this church.  Conversations with various church members about life.  Good people who were so patient with me as I preached and gained new experiences with the church.  Most of all, I learned how much I needed God.  Through it all, this man slept each Sunday.

Monday Resources

The following resources have been helpful to me recently.  (In mentioning these, I am not endorsing everything on the pages of an article or book or everything in the podcast.  Only suggesting that something in the article/book/podcast made me think.)

You Might Consider

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.  I enjoyed this book.  Perhaps what was most helpful was simply having the opportunity to experience how someone like Norman thinks.  His comments regarding the needs and psychology of people made me think.

Akimbo (podcast) by Seth Godin.  I read most everything Seth Godin writes.  He has a way of helping me think and feeding my curiosity.  A brilliant marketing expert, he has launched this new podcast.

Just How Married Do You Want to Be by Jim and Sarah Sumner.  A wonderful book about marriage that is biblical and theological and at the same time, very practical.  I especially appreciated the very clear call to take Jesus seriously and for that to be reflected in one’s marriage.

“The Tyranny of Convenience” (New York Times, February 16, 2018).  A very thoughtful article on the idea of convenience and the importance this culture has placed on this ideal.  He raises some questions regarding “Today’s cult of convenience….”

A Few Others

I try to be aware of what some of my favorite authors who write more biblical and theological books are writing.  These include people like J. Christopher Wright, Scot McKnight, N. T. Wright, John Dickson, and others.

I regularly listen to podcasts (sometimes just a portion of the podcast or the entire podcast).  This week I have listened one of the Aspen Ideas to Go, Change Your Game with GTD, and The Faith Angle.

Maybe some of this will be helpful.

What Good Ministers Do Really Well

I have been a minister for many years.  Literally, every week, I am in conversation with ministers.  I have noticed that the best ministers I know do three things really well.

First, good ministers look for the kernel of truth in any criticism.  Most of us probably do not like to hear anyone who might be critical of something we’ve said or done.  I once asked a minister a question regarding feedback.  As I recall, I asked him how he was processing the feedback he was getting in his congregation.  He said, “Oh I don’t ask them for feedback.  I don’t want to hear anyone’s criticism.”

Yet, we may be too quick to dismiss any sort of criticism.  I once heard Gordon McDonald reflect on the subject of criticism.  He spoke of the value of looking for the kernel of truth in someone’s criticism.  I may not like a person’s words or tone but I may find a kernel of truth in even some of the most difficult criticism.  This kernel of truth can actually be helpful to me.

Ministers and the Lust for Applause

 

“Everyone wants to be liked and appreciated,” my friend said.  Perhaps.  But not everyone lusts for applause.  Some want applause so badly, they are willing to sacrifice their integrity.

Have you ever enjoyed something so much, that you wondered how others manage to live without it?  For some ministers and other church leaders, the desire for applause can become so important that one might begin to do whatever it takes to gain the approval of another.  A friend of mine recently referred to this as “the lust for applause.”  I have never thought about one’s craving for applause as being lust but that is exactly what it is.

One of the great sins of Christian ministry is that its leaders, preachers, elders can get shackled by a lust for applause.  It can become intoxicating and addictive.  A preacher can be so focused on gaining more and more applause that sermons become not a ministry for spiritual formation of a church, but rather a means to approval, affirmation, and recognition.

Consequently, when there is no applause or affirmation of one’s sermon or a particular project, this can be devastating.  You might think that something is wrong with you.  You might even think that you are lacking or inferior in some way.  Silence might be interpreted as rejection or failure to a preacher.

The Bully

(Have You Ever Met Him?)

1. He often thinks he is the smartest one in the room.

2. He will try to convince you that you are slow, crazy, not intelligent, etc.

3. If you are female, he may think you are overly emotional, not thinking, always lacking in something.

4. He is always critiquing, keeping score, etc. He must win.

5. He is a saint one moment and unbelievably evil the next. He puts you down. In his mind, he is far, far superior to you.

6. In his mind, It is all about image, not character. It is all about what he perceives people to be thinking of him.

7. He will do anything and say anything if he thinks this will put him at an advantage.

8. The bully is often a charmer. However, once you get past the initial charm, you may see that the bully is actually cold and calculating.

 

The Truth: The bully may be in a church. The bully can be single or married.

The bully often thinks he is smart. The bully may be a legend in his own mind. Meanwhile, once you get past the surface charm, you may see how thin and shallow he really is. At least some of the sexual abuse and assault that we are hearing about now has come from the bullies who have spent years looking out for themselves.

May we raise up young men who see that being a bully is not manly at all. In fact, the bully is an insecure, small boy who may be in a man’s body but who has never grown up. May we raise up a generation of young men who pursue true strength, wisdom, and godly integrity. These are building blocks for character for those who refuse to settle for the small life of the bully.