Jim Martin: An Interview about Life and Work

9407_0009_webI’ve been thinking lately about some Christian leaders I would like to interview on this blog.  I have learned so much through the years by overhearing others reflect on particular questions.  I decided to  do a test run by conducting a self-interview.  (Yes, I know.  It feels a little odd!)

Perhaps the following six questions and the replies will interest you.

Who are the people who have influenced you in the way you both do and think about ministry?

I have had many people contribute to my life in some way.  Two people who have been important influencers are Charles Coil and Lynn Anderson.  Charles Coil was a longtime minister and preacher, as well as my father-in-law.  I had the opportunity to hear him preach, go to him for counsel, and witness his life before his family.  I was deeply impressed by his integrity, sincerity, and passion for God.  Lynn Anderson has taught me much through his preaching and numerous conversations over the years.  In his preaching and teaching, Lynn has taught me much about God’s love and his grace. Through his life and conversations, I have learned much about keeping my soul alive in the middle of ministry. 

In the Presence of Good — Nicholas Winton (Part 1)

What kind of investment do you need to make today?

Young Nicholas Winton was an ordinary 29-year-old man who was a clerk at the London Stock Exchange. His world was investments. However, he would soon make an investment of his own that would change many, many lives.

The year was 1938. He had been invited by a friend to come to Czechoslovakia and visit. During his visit, he became alarmed about the events that were unfolding. Czechoslovakia was on the verge of joining forces with Nazi Germany. They were already exporting the Jewish citizens in that country to concentration camps. He feared that not only would the adults be sent to the concentration camps, but the children as well.

He knew that he had to do something to save those children. He began to organize a way to get these children out of the country and into foster homes in Great Britain. He arranged for eight trains to take 669 children to London. Few of them would ever see their parents again. Meanwhile, as expected, these parents were taken away and put in concentration camps.

For 50 years, Nicholas Winton said nothing about his heroic action. He didn’t even tell his wife. Then one day, in 1988, while she was in the attic in their home, she came across a scrapbook. This was a scrapbook that Nicholas had kept during the time of the rescue, complete with pictures of the children as well as the names and addresses of their families. All of this had taken place fifty years ago.

His wife made public the story of his investment in the lives of 669 children. What unfolded was a wonderful story.

Nicholas Winton is now 100 years old. Just last week, some of these people gathered in Prague and rode a vintage train to London commemorating this rescue. When these people arrived in London, Winton was there to greet them.

Yet, this was not the first time that he had met them. The first time was in 1988 when he was a guest in a studio audience for a television show and then received quite a surprise.

(to be continued)

Interview with Darryl Tippens (Part 2)

If you are like me, you might sometimes feel tired, sluggish, and perhaps discouraged.

I encourage you to read Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life. I read this book a few years ago and found it to be incredibly refreshing. The author is Dr. Darryl Tippens, Provost at Pepperdine University. Darryl has graciously consented to participate in an interview on this blog. The subject of the interview will be very interesting to readers of this blog. I encourage you to consider his words.

Also, I will be giving away two autographed copies of this book during the week in which these posts appear. To be eligible for the drawing, leave a comment on this podarryl_tippens.jpgst.

The following is part two of the interview. (You can read part one here.)

As I read through the book, I was struck by the quality of the content. Yet, I also sensed that you were not only writing to help other believers but that you also have struggled at times in your attempt to follow Christ. Is that an accurate read? Are many of these practices what nurtured your own faith and life in Christ?

Darryl Tippens: Yes, you’re quite right. There is a great deal of autobiography in the book, evident to anyone who reads closely. One observant reader asked me bluntly one day, “Can you say things like that” (meaning, I think, as a “church leader,” wasn’t I laying myself open to criticism)? My reply was, “Well, I don’t know if I should have said these things, but I did.”

Religious books that sound simple, triumphalist, or Pollyannaish often turn me off. When they offer easy prescriptions like “Follow Jesus, and all will be well–no problems,” I become discouraged because I wonder, “Why is it I try to follow Jesus, but I don’t find it so easy? What’s wrong with me?” Facile claims don’t ring true for me.

I have found the Christian life authentic and exhilarating at times, but truly, utterly daunting at times too. So, I’m encouraged by people who tell the truth about how hard life can be. No one should lie to save God’s honor or make the Church look good. After all, if we worship the God of Truth, if Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then shouldn’t we tell the truth too? The whole system is bogus if we don’t tell the unvarnished truth. So, I have tried to be honest about my struggles. Life hurts. It’s a fact, so why not say so?

But that, of course, is only the prelude to the main story, not the final episode. It’s in the midst of our misery, that the light shines. I’ve found that when faithful friends received my honest testimony, including my questions and doubts, I didn’t end up believing less. Rather, having “come clean,” I found new space and new motivation to believe again, or believe more deeply. I often say to those with whom I work and associate, “You can tell the truth here.” Since we honor the God of Truth, that seems to be the only proper way to go. That explains why I include chapters on hospitality (welcoming), friendship, confession, listening, and discernment.

I’m a believer today in part because other disciples welcomed me with open arms, befriended me when I was in a crisis, listened to me without judgment, and offered discernment as I plodded the way forward. I believe these practices will work well for others too.

(to be continued)


Do you tell the truth about what it is really like to follow Christ? Are you a person who receives people in such a way as to invite them to speak the truth?


Interview with Darryl Tippens (Part 1)

Do you need to read a book that will refresh your soul?    

I encourage you to read Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life. I read this book a few years ago and found it to be incredibly refreshing. The author is Dr. Darryl Tippens, Provost at Pepperdine University. Darryl has graciously consented to participate in an interview on this blog. The subject of the interview will be very interesting to readers of this blog. I encourage you to consider his words.

Also, I will be giving away two autographed copies of this book during the week in which theses posts appear. To be eligible for the drawing, leave a comment on this post. The following is part one of the interview:

Several years ago, you wrote a book that I found very helpful and encouraging. The book, Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life has been helpful to many people. What would you say to tired, overwhelmed church leaders/ministers/pastors as well as many other everyday believers who might be reading this?

Darryl Tippens: First, I would say, “you are not alone.” You belong to a vast company of fellow pilgrims. Struggle, weariness, even exhaustion, are to be expected among people who make the long journey of faith. Yet Jesus promises relief for the weary and hope for the downtrodden. He promised the woman at the well that there is such as thing as “living water.” Those who drink of this water “will never be thirsty.” “The water I will give,” he promised, “will become in [you] a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) That water is still available.

I live in a desert climate. It is not unusual to go from May until December without a single drop of rain. Yet not far from my house there is a spring that flows year round. Despite the parched earth and the brown hills in the hot summer months, the spring just continues to flow. Jesus saw a similar phenomenon in ancient Palestine — sweet water endlessly bubbling up in the hottest, driest conditions. Spiritually speaking, we have access to a stream that can nourish us even in the darkest, most sterile times in our lives.

How do we gain access this life-giving resource? Of course, the simple answer is “Jesus.” He is the life-giving stream. But that doesn’t answer the practical question of how precisely we receive his life-giving nourishment, when we are depressed, sick, or lonely. Pilgrim Heart is my modest attempt to offer some provisional answers, which are derived from three sources: (1) Scripture, (2) the personal testimony of believers through the ages, and (3) my own autobiographical experience. I believe that these three sources of data mutually confirm and reinforce the truth that certain spiritual practices (taught by Scripture and tested by believers through the centuries) open that cleft in the rock from which the life-giving waters can reach our parched spirits. While this life-giving water is truly God’s gift to us (we do not create the water), we can do certain things to ready ourselves to receive this gift.

My book is an effort to propose ways to prepare ourselves for the reception of the life-giving waters, primarily through what we commonly call “the spiritual disciplines.” By no means do I think my description of spiritual practices is complete or authoritative. I’ve only scratched the surface. On the other hand, I think there is strong evidence that these practices do make a difference in our lives. In fact, I would argue that we have 2,000 years of testimony that these practices belong in our daily lives.

Furthermore, the testimony from readers who have written me convinces me that the spiritual practices delineated in Pilgrim Heart make a difference. Just today, I received an unsolicited note from a prominent citizen who confessed that though a dedicated Christian all her life, she had undergone “years of spiritual struggle.” But, she added, the discussion of the spiritual practices in the book had been “a balm to [her] battered heart.” I don’t take credit for the help she received, as I was merely the reporter, but I thank God that I was able to show what Christians have been doing for centuries to take care of themselves as they make the arduous pilgrimage of faith.

(to be continued)


Have you observed church leaders/minister/pastors who seem very weary? What has been your own experience with spiritual fatigue and weariness?

Lynn Anderson Interviews

You may have listened to one or more of the interviews with Lynn Anderson
that I posted recently. Just in case you missed one, I’ve listed them here.

Lynn Anderson on Staying Fresh

Lynn Anderson on Mentoring Groups

Lynn Anderson on Being Indebted to Mentors

Lynn Anderson on Avoiding the Affair Trap

Lynn Anderson on the Value of Mentors

Lynn Anderson on Marriage and Family

Lynn Anderson on Loneliness in Ministry

Before Forever: How do you know that you know?

ByronCarlaWeathersbee_150_X_150_3_.jpgThe following is a brief interview with Byron Weathersbee who co-authored, with his wife Carla, a fine book entitled Before Forever: How do you know that you know?  This is a book for seriously dating couples who are asking the tough "how do you know" questions.  The book is an outgrowth of their ministry to engaged couples.  Byron and Carla co-founded Legacy Family Ministries in 1995 to pass on Biblical principles from one generation to another by providing marriage preparation to pre-engaged and engaged couples.


In your book you describe the time leading up to a marriage engagement as a journey and state that “Knowing whether she or he is the one isn’t easy for a reason.  It’s difficult too because the journey God is leading you on is one that will search you to the core.”  After reading this book, what do you hope couples will find in themselves and their relationship?

Simply, we hope each individual will be complete, mature, and ready to consider their partner as more important than themselves. There is a passage of Scripture in Romans 5 that says we “can have peace with God.”  It continues to describe hardships, difficulty, and suffering as a way of developing character.  As we endure it, God has a way of taking us down His narrow but well-worn path.  Thus, our hope is that couples will develop their faith in the God that created them.

What should couples ask themselves before the BIG question is asked?

Looking for the proverbial BIG question or even searching for an answer of whether or not you should marry isn’t a one-time event, like having your name called over the intercom when your table is ready at a restaurant.  Much more likely than hearing a voice from above, God will lead you on a journey of discovery.  This involves asking a multitude of questions.  In our book, we attempt to ask the questions behind the “how do you know” question.  Thus, mixed throughout the book (and indexed) are over a hundred questions we believe couples should think through.  But God has given us great freedom and all sorts of resources to make this decision of whether or not to become engaged:

*  Reason to help us cut through the confusing emotions.
*  Emotions to help us feel the full range of human experience in the relationship.
*  Intuition to warn us when our emotions or other factors may be leading us astray.
*  Wise counsel from those with more life experience to give us a healthy, outside perspective.

Girls can plan their weddings from the age of 5, but often fail to plan their marriage. What advice do you give the girl who is in love with the idea of getting married?

Unrealistic expectation is one of the leading causes of marital dissatisfaction. My encouragement to any girl (I have two girls and a son) wanting to be married is to make sure they allow their mind to catch up with their heart. Most girls want to marry a Knight in Shining Armor only to wake up and find they married an Idiot in a Metal Suit.  Marriage is tough but so rewarding…it takes work and risk, but the payout is amazing.  So focus on the reality and not the illusion.  Illusions have a way of tricking our minds.

As for guys, they can feel the pressure to propose from family, friends and that ticking clock, “we’ve dated for two years!”  How do you suggest they respond to that pressure and ultimately find peace leading up to the decision?

These pressures—both internal and external—all build up. They push us. They pull us. They distract us. They are like a car riding our rear bumper on the freeway, pushing us to go faster. Sometimes the pressures even drive us to slam on the brakes or stomp on the accelerator (in relationship speak, “bail on the relationship in a panic” or “rush to the altar”).  Given all these pressures, then, how much of a man’s “readiness” for marriage is genuine and how much is he being propelled forward by the pressures around him?

Describe the challenges couples face when they look at their relationship through a human perspective and not that of a Godly perspective.

I think one of the challenges all of us face is living from a human perspective. All of us, Christ followers or not, have to deal with “human perspective.” Juggling the tension between our humanity and God’s deity (after all we are created in the image of God) will always be difficult.  Thus, anyone who merely attempts to love out of their own humanity will be limited.  The Bible says that “love comes from God” (1 John 4:7).  We need the power of a Holy God to unleash His Spirit in our lives because I don’t know about you, but for me to muster up the characteristics of a committed love becomes impossible without God.


(If you haven’t already done so, you can still register for the Book Giveaway announced a few days ago.  Drawing to be held next week.  You can register here.)

Lynn Anderson on the Value of Mentors

Each Monday, I have been posting segments of an interview with Lynn Anderson of San Antonio, Texas.  Lynn has served as church planter, minister, and mentor to many, many people.  In this segment, he discusses the value of mentors in his life.  I, along with a number of other people, have been blessed through Lynn’s mentoring.  Watch this video and enjoy.  I would love to hear your feedback on his comments.

(You might enjoy visiting Lynn’s website, Mentornetwork.org.  I encourage you to to visit it if you have not.)


Lynn Anderson on Avoiding the Affair Trap

In this video clip, Lynn Anderson reflects on some practical ways to avoid the affair trap.  (Very wise words!)  Enjoy–and then send a link to this post to someone else.  

Lynn Anderson has been a mentor, encourager, and church leader for many years.  He speaks and writes with a pastoral heart and an obvious love for God.  To know him is to know a person who continues to stay fresh, both in his relationship with God and in his ability to connect with people.  I have been blessed by his ministry and friendship for many years. 

Check out his website "Mentornetwork.org" if you have not done so already.

(Each Monday, I am posting a video clip of an interview with Lynn on a variety of ministry related subjects.  You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.)

An Interview With Lynn Anderson (Part 2 of 2)

andersonThe following is the second part of an interview with Lynn Anderson, director of MentorNetwork.  Lynn is an author, long time minister, and an encourager/mentor to many.  This interview is simply a sample of his ministry as he reflects on staying fresh for the long haul.  (You can find Part 1 here.)  Next Monday, I will begin posting a series of video interviews that I did with Lynn which you might find very encouraging.  In the meantime, you might enjoy checking out his MentorNetwork website.  Lynn’s own blog is there which you might find very interesting and helpful as well.


Jim Martin:    Many of us wrestle with the sheer amount of work to be done, not to mention the overwhelming nature of the emotion involved.  We go from funerals to weddings to a child’s soccer game, all of which elicit different emotions.  What can a person do to remain emotionally healthy while in ministry?

Lynn Anderson:    True, the emotional toll of ministry can gradually erode our emotional and mental health.  In fact, the torque on the psyche can be so distorting that I recommend that ministers periodically go through some sort of psychological analysis — whether through some introspective "self-examination" instrument or book or retreat.  I even recommend occasional sessions with a counselor or mental health professional as a sort of "gut-check."  That can sound unnerving, but possibly the very fact we fear or resist that idea may itself be a red flag.

Of course, by all means I have to get regular exercise — I walk and jog several miles, three to five times a week.  This clears the cobwebs and releases the "happy" endorphins or whatever they are.

In the heat of ministry, we absolutely must find a rhythm between "service and reflection," between "the masses and the mountain," between "giving and receiving."  Between people who are "draining" and people who are "energizing."  I can go flat when I keep "giving out" without "taking in."  But on the other hand, I can also go flat by "taking in and taking in" without "giving out" — become bookish and detached — flat.  Also I find it emotionally and spiritually refreshing to build variety into ministry functions — so I am not stuck on a daily treadmill, but get re-invigorated by a change of pace, scene and task.

Good music and good books feed me as well — even quality novels and the classics.  And, I need time to just plain have fun, with Carolyn or the family, or friends.  Just rare back and laugh a while.

After reading Lynn Anderson’s thoughts about staying fresh, I would enjoy hearing your own.  What do you do to stay fresh?  What has been helpful to you?  Is this a challenge for you?

An Interview With Lynn Anderson — (Part 1 of 2)

sheepThe following is the first part of a two part interview that I did recently with Lynn Anderson of MentorNetwork.  Lynn Anderson has been a significant mentor to me for many years.  From him I have learned so much about what it means to follow Jesus, live with authenticity, and live out my calling as a minister.  I encourage you to visit his new website, MentorNetwork which is a wonderful resource.  By the way, the books that Lynn mentions below, They Smell Like Sheep (Volumes I and II), are both very good and have been very helpful to me.  Part two of this interview will be posted next week.


Jim MartinLynn, you’ve written two books on shepherding: They Smell Like Sheep, Volume 1 and Volume 2.  Many ministers, and church leaders in general, are reading these books.  What kind of response are you getting?

Lynn Anderson:  Jim, the response to my shepherding books is beyond anything I might have imagined.  Volume 1 is still selling well 10 years after publication.  And, Volume 2 is steadily gaining altitude a year and a half after release.  Almost every day I hear from readers.  Of course, many readers are pastors and other church leaders but, Jim, I get regular feedback from ordinary folks in the pew as well: moms and dads, small group leaders, even Little League coaches, and even some business managers.  People  are very kind in their feedback.  And we can’t even begin to accept all of the requests for seminars and retreats on these books.  My prayer is that God is using these books to encourage Christian leaders.

Jim Martin: It seems that many ministers get into a rut and become stale in their ministries.  How does a minister stay fresh?  What have you done through the years to remain fresh and vibrant?

Lynn Anderson: What an important question, Jim, and one that I hear very often.  Honestly, I wish I had a silver bullet here.  Truth is, I cycle between flat places and mountain peaks myself.  Possibly it’s the way some of us are wired.

However, along the way I have found that some very ordinary things "feed my freshness."  I can’t guarantee they will fit everyone.

  • Sabbaths help me a lot.  Not specifically meaning classical weekly "Sabbath keeping" — "remembering the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy."  Rather, my Sabbaths are mostly merely intentional periods to unplug from demands and action to just be quiet and try to pay attention to God.  I am not talking about recreation here, or hobbies, etc. but rather about focused quietness.  Maybe an hour in the early morning, before phones ring and doors swing.  Possibly a long, quiet walk away from streets and highways.  Maybe a weekend with a couple of good books.
  • A homely thing like journaling always helps too.  It forces me to slow down and reflect and to re-prioritize on the move.
  • And, of course, prayer.  My prayer path surrounds the Psalms.  I try to pray a Psalm a day and to memorize a Psalm a month.  Keeps deepening and stretching me, keeps my prayer life fresh and keeps me "in front of God."  Frankly, prayer has never been very "automatic" with me.  But the longer I live, the more "spontaneous" it becomes, and the more I love it.  Without prayer, my world grows cold and empty.
  • Plus, I must have significant "face time" with soul-enriching people — people who read and pray and think a lot.  People who give fresh perspective and insight.  People who listen and encourage.