Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Weakness Has Its Benefits

Ben Reynolds, our music leader at Immanuel Nashville, wasn’t there in the early days. But he said to me not long ago, “Ray, my impression of the original core group at Immanuel is that you guys were so wounded and exhausted and hurting that no one in the group even had the emotional energy for selfish agendas.” I said, yes, that was probably true. Then Ben added, “And I think the Lord looked down on that and said, ‘Well, there’s a church I can use.'

Seven Principles of Sabbath Rest

Here are seven principles about Sabbath rest that I am learning. I share them in hopes they might help others fighting the battle of busyness, fatigue, and endurance.

Two Big Reasons Evangelism Isn’t Working

We need to see evangelism as a long-term endeavor. Stop checking the list and defeating others. Be incarnate not excarnate in your evangelism. Slow down and practice listening and love. Most conversions are not the result of a single, point-in-time conversation, but the culmination of a personal process that includes doubt, reflection, gospel witness, love, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Eight Reasons Why Some Full-time Pastors and Staff Should Go Bivocational

Without a doubt, many churches will always need full-time vocational pastors and church staff. I am not suggesting all of you, even the majority of you, should go bivocational. But I do believe more of you should consider this path. Allow me to offer eight reasons why.

Three Leadership Lessons from Winston Churchill

Here are three leadership principles from Winston Churchill that I draw from Paul Johnson’s biography, each with a corresponding lesson for us in leadership today.

My Saturday Nightmare

Our creativity, charisma, and carefully crafted sentences are pathetic substitutes for truly preaching the very Word of God.

Ammunition for the Fight Against Porn

This is your ammunition — truths accomplished by God, knowledge given you by his grace.

Two Years To No Lies

Two years ago I took a vow never to tell a lie. Here is what happened.

Encouraged but Wanting More

Ministry is a glass half-empty or half-full proposition. There are so many things that can discourage us. Ministry is hard at the best of times, and it often feels like we’re losing, rather than taking, ground. At the local church level, many churches need revitalizing, which is an important work but also a long and sometimes difficult one. Also, planting is hard.

Despite all of this, I’m hugely encouraged. Here’s why.

Gospel — Not only have we seen a rediscovery of the gospel in recent years, but we haven’t moved on. Nor could we. Books like Gospel by Ray Ortlund really encourage me, because they push us to not only consider gospel doctrine, but weave the gospel into the very culture of the church. Having tasted this, even in small measures, it’s impossible to go back.

Resources — Never before have we been so well resourced. There are so many excellent books coming out that it’s impossible to keep up with them. There are so many thoughtful, theologically sound and beneficial blogs that I can’t possibly read them all. My laptop contains the resources of a small seminary library. I can listen to the best sermons preached last Sunday without leaving my home. It’s staggering.

Servants — The days demand servanthood, which is why I keep meeting humble people who are ready to go to tough churches and love them to health. I love meeting seminary students who realize that there are lots of ministry positions, but not a lot of ministry careers, and who still are preparing to serve. I love meeting quality pastors who serve in obscurity and are okay with that. I love the servants who drive across the city every week to help us set up chairs at our humble church plant.

Desperation and Prayer — I’m sensing a growing number of pastors and churches who are praying for each other, and longing for something to happen not just in their church but in their city and beyond.

All of this leaves me encouraged, but hungry for more. Let’s pray that God would bring renewal to our churches and cities, and that we’ll see these brushfires of hope turn into something more.

Jill Briscoe's Laugh

I was asked to give an update on our church planting efforts this past Sunday at the Greater Toronto Spiritual Life Convention, an annual multi-church event. Because of this, I had a front row seat to hear Stuart Briscoe preach. I’ve heard Briscoe preach before, and as usual he did a masterful job. But that isn’t what I’ll remember the most from that evening.

Sitting in the front row, I was one person away from Stuart’s wife Jill as he preached. As Stuart preached, Jill laughed. She laughed a lot, and genuinely. She’s probably heard all of his jokes before, but after 57 years of marriage, she was engaged in what her husband said, and able to laugh at every one of his jokes.

One of my friends was asked recently by a church search committee what a successful ministry would look like if he came to that church. They probably expected him to describe goals about the growth of the church, and the great things that would happen under his ministry. After thinking a minute, he said that he would consider his ministry there a success if his wife still loved him at the end of his tenure, and that he had some true and significant friendships with others. It’s not the usual definition of success, but it’s not a bad one either.

I’ve been around long enough to understand that it’s hard, and that ministry and life can take its toll on one's life and marriage. On Sunday night I saw two things I loved: a man in his eighties who continues to serve faithfully, and his wife who still continues to laugh. 

I appreciate Stuart Briscoe’s preaching, but I may have appreciated his wife’s laugh even more. If I reach my eighties and have remained faithful, and have a wife who still laughs at my jokes, I will count myself a blessed man indeed.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Love the Church More than Its Health

We should love people because they belong to Jesus, not because they have kept the law of a healthy church, even though that law may be good and biblical. It means we should love them because of what Christ has done and declared, not because of what they do.

Assessing the State of Your Church and How It Got There

Don’t miss the importance of learning “what time it is” for a church and how it has progressed to this point.

Don’t Be Like Mike

Don’t be concerned about what others have–and what you think you lack for Kingdom impact. Our supposed inadequacies are God’s opportunities.

You Know You’re Really Preaching the Gospel When...

When we’re really preaching the gospel, both to ourselves and to others, it sets us free. And it results in the kind of success that lasts for eternity.

16 Ways to Think like a Leader

The first step toward becoming a leader is thinking like one.

Affordable Tech Tools for Churches

As a church planter, I'm tight on both time and money. That means I'm on the lookout for tools that save me time and don't cost too much. I'm picky, so I'm not just looking for cheap. I want quality as well.

Here are some tools that I've found to be helpful recently. Many of them offer discounts for churches. You may find some of them helpful too.

Buffer — Buffer is a great way to schedule your posts to social media. They now offer a 50% discount for nonprofits.

Dollar Photo Club — Stock photos are getting more expensive. Dollar Photo Club is a good alternative to some of the more expensive sites. Join for $99 a year, and you get 99 photos, and additional ones at $1 each.

Evernote Business — You're probably aware of Evernote. It's where I store pretty much everything. You may not be aware that they offer a 75% discount on Evernote Business to not-for-profit organizations that sign up with a minimum of 5 users.

Fiverr — Fiverr is a marketplace for creative and professional services, starting at just $5. I've used it for voicemail greetings, website design, and a whiteboard animation. Check out the reviews, as results are mixed, but I've had some great work done here.

I Done This — I Done This is a simple way to keep track of what you and your team accomplish every day. They now offer a 40% discount for non-profit organizations.

MailChimp — MailChimp is a way to send emails to your email list, and they offer a 15% discount for non-profits.

Planning Center — We use Planning Center to organize and plan our worship services and participants. It saves us a lot of headaches.

Proclaim — Proclaim works with Planning Center, and helps us quickly move from our order of service to a fully formatted slideshow complete with song lyrics and Scripture readings.

Salesforce — Salesforce is a great tool to manage donors, members, and volunteers. I didn't know until recently that the Salesforce Foundation offers to pay all or most of the cost for eligible non-profit organizations.

Squarespace — Squarespace provides everything you need to set up a great website. I'm a huge fan. I host this blog and our church site on Squarespace, and you can't beat the price: $16/month for unlimited pages, storage, and bandwidth. If you need help in getting set up, I've already mentioned a Fiverr service that can help.

Leave a comment if you have any recommendations I've missed.