Saturday Links

When the Ordinary Does the Extraordinary

What if the way to reach the nations is not through the extraordinary. What if in our Father’s Kingdom economy the primary way to accomplish the extraordinary is through the ordinary?

Church Planting Make Believe

So read the books, go to the conferences and learn from other planters. Then spend enough time with Jesus to know what he wants you to do. And then do it.

What’s so uncool about cool churches?

In an effort to give people something “attractive” and “relevant” we embraced novel new methods in youth ministry, that 20 years later are having a powerful shaping effect on the entire church. Here are the marks of being market-driven; Which are hallmarks of your ministry?

Lessons Learned in Church Planting

Twelve months ago, Church Planter Marcus Toussaint moved from the heart of the Bible Belt in Dallas to the mountains of Northern Arizona to help start Flagstaff Community Church with a few friends … Recently, he blogged 20 lessons he’s learned about planting in what he calls a ‘postmodern, post-everything frontier,” including “All that stuff about ‘calling’ is true” and “A church plant is a lame idol.”

Preaching for the "Home Run"

I don’t think that you should prepare your sermon with a “home run” in mind. Make sure you understand the text, make sure that you have done the hard work of prayerfully meditating on how the text applies to the lives of your congregation, make sure you have labored to organize your message in a helpful way, make sure you have chosen compelling ways to communicate the message, beg the Holy Spirit to attend the preaching of the Word… and then let it rip. The results are up to God.

Developing Leaders

I quickly learned that two of the demands of organizational leadership were (1) the ability to create systems and lead through systems and (2) the creation of systems that developed other leaders. If a leader cannot create and develop other leaders he will quickly find himself overwhelmed, burned out, severely limited, one-dimensional, and with a painfully stunted organization.

The Money Talk

Just as parents need to be more conversant with their children regarding human sexuality, it is past time that Pastors learn how to normalize the conversation with their congregation regarding faith and finance. After all it is a critical aspect of discipleship, the prevailing idol of western civilization, and strategic in fueling Kingdom impact and expansion.

Leaders are Readers: 9 Tips for Picking Good Books

More than 1,000 books are printed every day in the world, and several thousand new religious titles come out each year. So how can you recognize jewels from junk when you’re looking for a book?

How to Be a Writer: 201 Compelling Tips

The tips are organized into different sections:

  • How to create a successful mindset.
  • How to develop your craft of writing.
  • How to establish good writing habits.
  • How to approach professional development.
  • How to become a better writer.
  • How to become more creative.

Ten Myths About Premarital Sex

I recently picked up a copy of Premarital Sex in America by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker and was pleasantly surprised at some of the insights. While I have been writing, teaching, and speaking for years to both teens and adults on the issue of premarital sex, this book opened my eyes to some of the more important trends emerging today.

A battle I face

Julian: Does the disclosure that same sex attraction is one of your personal battles mean you are defining yourself as a homosexual?

Vaughan: No, it doesn’t. It’s important to reiterate that I have acknowledged a struggle in all eight of the areas the book covers and not just in one. The brokenness of the fallen world afflicts us all in various ways. We will be conscious of different battles to varying degrees at different moments of a day and in different seasons of our lives. No one battle, of the many we face, however strongly, defines us, but our identity as Christians flows rather from our relationship with Christ.

I'm (Kinda Sorta Yeah Not Really) Gay

As I’ve grown in my relationship with God and trusted more in Christ’s finished work on the cross, I’ve learned not to define myself by sins or temptations. My identity is not bound to my sexuality, but to my Savior (Galatians 2:20). That’s why I don’t call myself a gay Christian; I’m a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction.

Changing the World Begins with Prayer

David Livingstone was right: “The best remedy for a sick church is to put it on a missionary diet.” Such a diet, the Scriptures teach us, will always have a healthy portion of prayer.

Review: Center Church

If you want a philosophy of ministry, I'm not your guy. I've written them. I've even assigned and graded them. I don't like most of them, though. Some are theological, but don't tell me much about ministry. Some are programmatic, and end up becoming too prescriptive. Neither is helpful.

What we need, according to Tim Keller, is middleware. Middleware is like the operating system on your computer. It's neither the hardware (like theology), nor is it the application (the programs). In the church, this middleware — a theological vision for ministry, really — is more practical than doctrinal beliefs alone, but more theological than "how-to" steps for ministry. It is, it turns out, exactly what we need, and it's what Keller aims to deliver in his tome Center Church.

Yes, it's a tome. The book is almost 400 pages, and the audiobook is almost 23 hours long. It's formatted like a textbook with lots of sidebars, and some tables and sidebars. As Mike Wittmer writes, "The only thing it’s missing is a few pictures of U.S. Presidents, and I’d be back in high school." (The sidebars are one reason why the print version is superior to the audiobook or the ebook format. There's no real way for the sidebars to have the same flow on a Kindle, much less an audiobook.)

The book delivers exactly what you'd expect from Tim Keller: a scholarly but practical look at ministry. The book is broken into three sections: Gospel, City, and Movement.

First, he begins with the gospel, helping us think carefully about what it is and what it isn't. He also describes how the gospel renews the church. Chapter 6, "The Work of Gospel Renewal," is worth the price of the book itself for any pastor who wants to see the church revived.

Second, Keller writes on the city. Keller describes what it means to contextualize our ministries appropriately, and then gives us a basic understanding of urban theology. Keller is the best thing to happen to urban theology since Ray Bakke, who wrote The Urban Christian years ago. Keller makes a compelling case for the importance of ministry in the urban core, without devaluing the significance of ministry elsewhere. He then deals with the complex topic of the church's relationship to culture. Entire books have been written on this topic, but Keller bravely tackles it, providing a good synthesis of the various views. Keller reminds me of why I love cities, and why I'm glad to be pastoring in a city like Toronto.

Finally, Keller writes on movement. The Church, he writes, is both an organism and an organization. It requires that we join God on mission, that we integrate a number of ministry fronts, and that we act as an organized organism.

We need, he writes, more than sound doctrine, although sound doctrine is necessary. We need more than a magic-bullet program that will reach people. We need something in the middle: a theological vision that enables us to communicate the gospel to our time and place. "You can do this ministry with God's help," Keller writes, "so give it all you've got. You can't do this ministry without God's help — so be at peace."

I can't tell you how much I appreciated this book. It's meaty, but it re-energized me at many points. When Keller writes about church planting, for instance, he both inspired me and encouraged me, and made me want to sign up to be a church planter all over again. He has a knack for communicating complex information in a pastorally helpful way.

This is one of those books that I'll be reading again. It's going to go on the shelf of books that are consulted often, because it covers so much material in a substantive, helpful way.

I did have a couple of mild criticisms. Keller likes finding the via media, the middle way. This is often helpful, but not always. Also, I also found that this book had a heavily edited feel. It ocassionally seemed to lack cohesiveness, which is perhaps understandable given all the ground it covers. Still, it seemed to be missing some of Keller's voice. I could be imagining this, but it felt that way.

That being said, this book is gold. A few of Keller's articles have had a profound influence on my life. Imagine, then, almost 400 pages of such material. If you're in pastoral ministry, or if you are interested in a theological vision of the church, or any number of related topics such as church planting and cultural engagement, then this book is a must. Buy the print edition if you can, and refer to it often. You won't be sorry.

Liberty Grace Church Information Night

On Saturday, October 13, we’re holding an information meeting for Liberty Grace Church. If you have friends in Toronto who might want to learn more about this new church plant, please share this information with them. If you live in Toronto, we’d love to have you attend this event as well.

Please pray for this meeting!

What is this meeting about?

This is an information meeting for Liberty Grace Church, a new church plant in Liberty Village, Toronto. Come for a time of worship, to hear me share the vision and plan for Liberty Grace, and answer questions about the church. Tom Haines, FEBCentral Director of Church Planting, will also be present to share his vision and to answer questions.

Who should attend?

This is a meeting for people who have already committed to the Liberty Grace Launch Community, people who are considering joining to the Launch Community, and people who simply want to learn more about the church and how to support us relationally, prayerfully, and financially. In other words, everyone is invited. Children are welcome, although there will be no childcare provided.

When is the meeting?

Saturday, October 13 at 6 p.m. Plan on arriving early in order to find parking. The formal part of the meeting will last about an hour. Plan on sticking around for a while so that we can all mingle and get to know each other better and to enjoy the coffee.

Where is the meeting?

The meeting is at danceology, a dance studio in the heart of Liberty Village. It’s located in the Liberty Market building at 171 East Liberty Street, Suite 109. The closest intersection is Hanna Avenue and Liberty Street. The dance studio is on the west side of the building, and faces Hanna Avenue.

There is some parking available at our meeting space, and a Green P parking lot directly across the road.

Please let us know you are coming by registering.

Two Tech Tools

I'm always on the lookout for tools that make life easier or more productive. Here are two. I found one recently, and the other one I've been using for a while now.



I can relate to what this New York Times writer says about email:

This month alone, I received more than 6,000 e-mails. That doesn’t include spam, notifications or daily deals, either. With all those messages, I have no desire to respond to even a fraction of them. I can just picture my tombstone: Here lies Nick Bilton, who responded to thousands of e-mails a month. May he rest in peace.

Email drives me crazy. Rules and filters help, but it's hard to keep up. I recently came across Sanebox, which does a lot of the work for you:

SaneBox filters your Inbox. We separate emails that you must deal with right away from ones that can wait at least a couple of hours. And we do it automatically with no fuss and bother. All you have to do is click twice and eventually pay us some money.

So far so good. It's like having somebody separate all the flyers and junk mail from the stuff that actually matters. They give you a free trial, so you may want to check it out. I don't get any affiliate fees; it's just because I think it's a helpful service.


IFTTT stands for "If This, Then That."


You can set a trigger (the "if this" part) based on almost anything on the internet: the weather, a Google Reader post, something on Twitter or Facebook. This will cause a certain action to be taken. If you don't know where to start, you can simply use recipes that other people have created. For instance:

  • When Facebook profile picture changes, update Twitter profile picture.
  • Thank people in Twitter when they mention you or RT
  • Text you the weather every morning
  • Send starred items in Google Reader to Evernote

The possibilities are almost endless. It's a great free service, and you can't lose giving this one a try.

Saturday Links

5 Things I Wish I Had Known as a Young Pastor

  1. You are pastoring a parade.
  2. The people who demand the most serve the least.
  3. You will see ugly behavior.
  4. You are irreplaceable (but not at church).
  5. Preach the Word.

The “Mega-Problems” of Mega-Churches

A great list of characteristics to avoid in churches of any size:

  1. Consumer-Oriented Structures
  2. Celebrity-Driven Culture
  3. Sunday-Centricity
  4. Inward-Focused Financial Structures
  5. Seating over Sending

Ask for Tolerance

If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental, turn the tables.

My 40 Day Experiment Without Social Media Apps On My Phone

I know taking my social media apps off my phone hardly constitutes as a revolutionary act, but it was my own experimenting with change. Since I love technology, and since I’m immersed in it — I’m trying to place healthy boundaries around it so that I can dictate how I use it, rather than the other way around.

How To Diffuse A Bad Idea

  1. Immediately address the potential merits of the idea.
  2. Offer up a way to turn the idea in a more productive direction.
  3. Have a rule that no one can shoot down an idea without offering an alternative or building on the existing idea.
  4. Refocus on objectives.

Are You Future-Focused or Present-Focused?

When you have work to finish, be future-focused. When your work is done and it's time to relax, be present-focused.

Top 200 Church Blogs

There are hundreds of great church blogs and ministry blogs to read, but do you ever wonder which church blogs everyone else is reading?

I do, which is why we have compiled a list of the world’s top church blogs.