An incarnational church functions as the “body of Christ” because it represents the presence of Christ in a community. – Comeback Churches, page 6
I believe that every church is planted with the desire to be an incarnational church. However, over time, many times churches get “stuck”. They operate in a way that is meaningful only to those already in the church while those in the community look on in bewilderment.
Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson did a study of 324 churches who were stuck and then made the turnaround to become “Comeback Churches”. These were churches that had experienced 5 years or more of plateau or decline and then experienced significant growth (10% growth each year) and started seeing at least one person baptized each year for every 35 members. So a 350 person church would see at least 10 people baptized each year. Their book, Comeback Churches, describes the common steps these 324 churches took to turn things around.
I feel that God is leading my family and me to an established church, rather than going down the path of planting another church. Most likely, it will be a church that has been plateaued or declining for the last few years. As such, I found this book to be a tremendous help! Not a page went by where I didn’t highlight some good insight. If you are at a church that needs to make a comeback, I highly recommend this book! Check it out!
I have been called a bull in a china shop…on more than one occasion! A friend, hoping to help, handed me this book to read…about four years ago. To be honest, at that time I wasn’t ready to openly evaluate myself and how I used my physical presence to influence others. I was defensive and thought, “well, this is just who I am!”
Well, I finally got over myself and decided to read it. In her book Making Room For Leadership: Power, Space, and Influence, MaryKate Morse asserts that we all take up space in a room (not just physically) and the way we use or don’t use our bodies in group settings influences others. She shares that most of us are unaware of the ways we use our bodies to influence others. I would wholeheartedly agree with these ideas!
As I read this book, I reflected on my past. I worked with someone who would use his body and physical presence to dominate the room and to force everyone else into submission. He referred to this as “powering up”. It was incredibly intimidating and created a very tough working environment. It wasn’t until I was out of the situation that I realized how emotionally damaging the working relationship was to me.
I do not want to lead like that. MaryKate Morse talks about “shadows” and “sponges” in her book. I have come to the realization that on the scale of being a “shadow” with no presence or a “sponge” who soaks up all the physical space in a room, I am much more like a sponge. I am who God created me to be BUT I can learn to me more like Jesuswho used his power and influence to empower the marginalized and to stand up to those who are abusing their personal power. I can learn to temper my big presence to help create safe environments that help others find their voice and to feel free to participate in this great endeavor of spreading the good news of the coming of God’s Kingdom.
This is a great book that would be very helpful for both “shadows” and “sponges”. If you are someone who people ignore and you don’t feel like you have a voice, grab this book and learn how to appropriately gain influence and to partner with what God is doing. If you are more like me, and tend to soak up all the space in a room, read this book and learn how to be more aware of your surroundings and how to help others feel safe and to share your influence and power. God has a plan for ALL of us and he wants us ALL to participate in his great redemption story!
“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”- Henri Nouwen
As young leaders, we gather knowledge and experience and think that alone will help us become great leaders. I now believe that it is only after a leader has lived in the desert for a season and experienced true suffering and loss that God is able to use that broken person for His purposes. We see this over and over in the Bible. Moses had to spend 40 years in desert before leading the people of God out of slavery and bondage. David spent his early years tending sheep and then his early adult years running from Saul before he could be the king God wanted him to be. Jesus was led into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights before starting his public ministry.
The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen dives into this idea that God uses broken, imperfect people who have experienced pain to minister to other broken people. While not a great piece of literature, I would recommend this book to anyone in ministry. Its a quick read, less than 100 pages long. However, Nouwen shares some great wisdom in this short book. For that reason, I give this book 3 stars out of 5.
The pastor’s question is, “Who are these particular people, and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”- Eugene Peterson
I’m currently in a “wait and see” season of life. I’ve described it to a friend as feeling like a shepherd with no flock. Our time at our previous church came to an end in September 2013 and now we are waiting to see where God leads us next.
While I’ve been waiting, I have done a lot of praying and soul searching. I have immersed my soul in God’s Word and listened to dozens of wonderful sermons from pastors Mark Driscoll (Seattle) and Tim Keller (New York City).
I have also been reading a lot. One of the books I just finished is titled The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson. Peterson, best known for his translation of the Bible called the Message, has also written numerous books on pastoring/shepherding.
The Contemplative Pastor is a really great book that I would recommend for anyone in ministry- but especially for a pastor who has already put in his first decade of service and is looking for wisdom from a pastor who had shepherded his people for decades.
Peterson encourages pastors to embrace “the unhurried life”- to leave room for God to move and to do life with messy people. He says it this way:
How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?…I know I can’t be busy and pray at the same time. I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted, or dispersed.
That is such a good word. Too often, we rush around trying to accomplish great things for God instead of just “be” and live in communion with God’s spirit.
Peterson also encourages pastors to really love their people and to take time for them.
Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s only for five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance. Speaking to people does not have the same personal intensity as listening to them. The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” but “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?”
If you are in ministry or if you feel like God has given you the spiritual gift of shepherding, I would strongly encourage you to pick up this book. It will stretch and challenge you and help you on your journey to becoming more like our Great Shepherd- Jesus.
I read his more famous book, Crazy Love, a couple of years ago and had really mixed feelings about it. I have a few friends who loved Crazy Love and that book literally changed their lives. I struggled with it and thought Chan was taking some potshots at American Christians and offering some nice ideas without offering a plan on how to live it out. Therefore, I put off reading Forgotten God for a while.
I liked this book better than Crazy Love. Francis Chan is never going to be compared with great Christian writers like C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, or even Mark Driscoll, but he writes a decent devotional book and he strives to challenge his readers. Those who are fans of David Platt (Radical) would like this book. Read More
For some reason, it took me about eighteen months to get through The Pastor by Eugene Peterson. It probably had something to do with the fact that in that time frame we moved from Colorado to Wisconsin, helped plant a new church, I finished my M.A. in Theological Studies, and my wife and I had a baby (who spent 10 days in the NICU). It was a very busy season of life!
However, I loved it and I’m glad I took my time getting through it. This is a great book from a pastor to pastors. I love that Peterson is not your typical megachurch pastor/author. For most of his ministry, Peterson has led a church with less than 500 people. I’ve heard that something like 97% of all churches in America have less than 500 people, so Peterson can relate to most pastors. Read More