Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Prayer is a Key

We all are very much aware of the importance of prayer in the life of a believer. I have often thought that one of the most challenging aspects of a pastor's ministry to the congregation is helping those in the pews understand the importance of prayer in their personal lives as well as in the life of the congregation and the Church in general. I am convinced that we have no idea just how important prayer really is in the spiritual realm.

Anyway, I saw this offer for a free booklet on "Pivotal Praying" from John Maxwell and the Injoy ministry that looks like a resource every pastor ought to get and read through... for the sake of your own prayer life as well as that of your congregation's.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Spiritual Gifts

One topic that is a recurring one for those in church leadership is that of spiritual gifts and how to help people discover what their gift(s) are and how to put them to best use in the church. After being actively involved in church ministry as a layperson for many years now, as I look back I can count on my one hand (with several fingers unused) the number of times I have heard sermons or had classes of some kind on this topic. And yet it seems vitally important for healthy church ministry that involves pastoral staff as well as laypeople.

The Fleece Library, as many other Bible college/seminary-type institutions, has a good number of print resources on this topic, which can be found through our online catalog http://www.ciu.edu/library by looking up the subject "Gifts, Spiritual." Currently we have a little over 100 items listed, most of them published prior to 2000. Fortunately, this is an ageless topic, so even items published 40 or 50 years ago will still have value.

While talking with a fellow Christian recently I was reminded of the continuing interest among lay people on this topic, and that many are looking to discover their gifts through computer-generated means. I have found several "tests" for discovering one's spiritual gift(s) online. As with anything else "online" some of the tests are better than others, but it is worth knowing about them in case another Christian comes along who is eager to find some help. Take a look at some of these and find the one that comes closest to your own opinion of what you want your parishioners to know and understand about how to be involved in meaningful lay ministry:

http://www.elmertowns.com/spiritual_gifts_test (This one is by Elmer Towns, a CIU alumnus now at Liberty University).

http://www.crossroadschurch.net/ministries/lifechange/PDFs/SpiritualGiftsTest.pdf (This is a PDF file with the answer key included)



So... here's to better educated, better equipped lay people!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Expositional Pattern of a Great Master

In Steven J. Lawson 's, The Expository Genius of John Calvin (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2007), the author summarizes in an accurate, deeply appreciative, and highly readable manner the expository method of John Calvin, one of the greatest exegetes in the history of the Christian Church. The work covers Calvin's' approach to the pulpit, his preparation as the preacher, the launching of the sermon, the expounding of the text, crafting the delivery, applying the truth, and concluding the exposition. The work is challenging, informative, and suggestive.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Pastor's Library

I recently read an interesting article about the development of the library that a pastor uses for his study and research for his ministry behind the pulpit at http://www.tms.edu/850books.asp

Along with some excellent tips on how to go about developing such a library and making it truly useful and valuable, the authors also give a list of what they consider to be the 850 most valuable books to have.

All in all, this appears to be a helpful and challenging article for a pastor to read.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Excellent Source Concerning Theological Writers

The Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, ed. by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993) provides very helpful summaries of the biography, works, contribution, and overall perspective for each of 33 prominent Evangelical theologians of the twentieth century. Those chosen are representative of various denominations and theological points of view, have had a significant influence on or in the evangelical movement, and have had a major interest in theology. The authors of the articles are well-known, mostly established writers, and are from the same general tradition as the theologian they describe and are very appreciative of his contribution. This work is an excellent place to gain an overview of a prominent Evangelical theologian.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

St. Arbucks

I read an interesting entry in the Out of Ur blog recently about the comparison of church with Starbucks. It would be worth thinking about further... how can the church meet the needs of people like a popular coffee shop would?

As I read about St. Arbucks I was reminded of the several times that my husband and I have been at another (non-Starbucks) local coffee shop and have seen various types of Christian-related activities going on, everything from Bible studies to theological discussions to silent Bible reading by individuals. Perhaps we are seeing the development of another form of silent (or not so silent) witness to an otherwise pagan world!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Articles for Church Officers

Ordained Servant: A Journal for Church Officers is sponsored by the Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and provides brief, theologically erudite, and helpful articles which are particularly designed for elders and deacons of local churches. Though the articles originate within the Reformed context, many have much wider application and would be helpful to church leaders from all traditions. Articles encompass Servant Thoughts, Servant Realms, Servant Word, Servant Worship, Servant Heart, Servant Work, Servant World, Servant History, and Servant Reading. The journal is published monthly online and is available at www.opc.org/os.html, though a printed edition is made available annually. All of the 53 back issues from the birth of the journal through the present are available free online. Though copyright laws apply, interested parties are invited to obtain permission to reproduce material found in the publication by writing to the editor.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The English Bible in a New Format

In August of 2007 The International Bible Society (Colorado Springs, Colorado) will release a new printing of the Bible entitled The Books of The Bible. Though this edition features the text of Today’s New International Version (TNIV), it is formatted in a way designed to reflect more accurately the intentions and thought forms of the original authors and to allow more transcending of a particular reader's theological and presuppositonal baggage. In this edition all divisions of chapters and verses are removed, and instead there is a setting forth of the natural literary breaks in each biblical book. Furthermore, there are no headings, cross references, or notes included, the text is printed in a single column, and the books are presented in an order intended to give the reader more help in understanding the text. It is hoped that this format will make the Bible easier to read and encourage more reading of the text. See the following site for more information: http://thebooksofthebible.info/.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Harmony of Reformed Confessions

The work entitled Reformed Confessions Harmonized, ed. Joel R. Beeke (President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary) and Sinclair B. Ferguson (noted author and pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC) (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999) provides a very helpful harmony of the historic confessions used within the conservative Reformed tradition. Included are The Belgic Confession of faith (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), The Second Helvetic Confession (1566), the Canons of Dort (1618-1619), The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647), and The Westminster Larger Catechism (1648). In addition to an index of biblical texts, the work also includes a selected annotated bibliography of Reformed doctrinal works, arranged in the systematic categories and order of the harmony.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Reforming Worship

Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, ed. Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan, III, is a Festschrift for the late James Montgomery Boice (author, theologian, and pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia). It contains articles on worship by such well-known authors as Edmund P. Clowney, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., J. Ligon Duncan III, Hughes Oliphant Old, Michael S. Horton, and a Foreword by R. C. Sproul. The work includes specific articles defending the Regulative Principle (an important concept on which not much has been written) from recent criticism, corporate worship as a means of grace, the place of preaching and the sacraments in worship, family worship, worship in all of life, hymnody in the modern context, and challenges and opportunities for ministry today.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Ministers and Income Tax

The work 2007 Church and Clergy Tax Guide, by Richard R. Hammar (Harvard graduate, CPA, attorney, noted author in the area of church and law, and an inductee into the church management "hall of fame" by the National Association of Church Business Administration) demonstrates how to understand the tax laws and how they apply to you, how to correctly report your federal income taxes and social security taxes, understand relevant exemptions, and reduce your tax liability as much as possible. It's designed to be a resource for ministers and also church treasurers, board members, bookkeepers, attorneys, CPA's, and tax practitioners.

Entire chapters are devoted to the items that you have the most questions about, including: Tax changes from 2006, Charitable contributions, Clergy retirement plans, Social security, Church reporting requirements, Housing allowances, and Business expense reimbursement.You'll find easy-to-understand charts and real-life illustrations, which not only make this a guide for the tax season, but also one that you can use throughout the year.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Another interesting blog to check out

Here is an interesting blog for those who preach regularly: http://blog.preachingtoday.com

I came across it today in the course of some research I was doing at my desk and even though I am not a preacher, I found the entries I read to be very challenging even for someone such as myself who is "just" a public speaker.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Risk Management

James F. Cobble, Jr. and Richard R. Hammar, Risk Management Handbook for Churches and Schools (St. Matthews, North Carolina: Christian Ministry Resources, 2001). This book provides comprehensive guidelines for preventing accidents, protecting the physical property and assets of a Christian organization, and minimizing potential litigation. It covers such matters as the handling of money, defamation, counseling, fire, crime, and vandalism, contracts, sexual misconduct and child abuse, and employment discrimination. It is a real "eye-opener" with many practical and well-considered suggestions, making it a "must read" for Christian organizations operating in the ever-increasingly hyper-litigious Western world.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Critique of Current Evangelical Modus Operandi

For a thought-provoking, stimulating, and convicting assessment of many practices and and procedures (as well as their underlying presuppositons) that are being undertaken within the compass of Conservative Evangelicalism, particuarly those which are observed by the media and the general public, see Power Religion: The Selling out of the Evangelical Church?, ed. Michael Scott Horton (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992). The book contains highly readable and well-written articles by such Evangelical thinkers as Charles Colson, J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, and Alister McGrath.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In order to lead a meeting or to advise the leader of a meeting (whether secular or ecclesiastical) properly, the magnum opus source book and authority is Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. 10th ed. revised. Edited by Sarah Corbin Robert, Henry M. Robert, III, William J. Evans, Daniel H. Honemann, Thomas J. Balch. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books Group, 2000.

For a less technical, but highly accurate, and useful summary of RRO see Nancy Sylvester (a registered and professional parliamentarian). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Robert's Rules. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2004.

For more helpful sources on parliamentary procedure see the web site (and the online bookstore) of the National Association of Parliamentarians (http://parliamentarians.org).

Monday, February 19, 2007

A new work with a unique collection of materials on revivals has appeared. It is entitled Encyclopedia of Religious Revivals in America, ed. Michael McClymond. 2 vols. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2007. The first volume contains information on revivals from Colonial America to the modern Pentecostal movements, Billy Graham, and the Willow Creek Community Church. The second volume contains many primary documents, 214 pages of bibliographical data, "A Guide to Archival Collections," and a helpful index.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

21st Century Preaching Tool

I recently discovered an interesting website and was immediately reminded of the fact that I am living in the 21st century! This website offers video clips that can be used in sermons and/or teaching. In this day and age of TV, video and computer action, that little extra could make a huge difference in the point we are trying to make to our listeners.

http://www.bluefishtv.com offers hundreds of short clips, some free and others for sale at minimal prices. They cover a huge selection of topics and ages, and I must admit I was fascinated with the titles offered. It might be worth taking a look at the website the next time you need a little "extra."

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Prayer and the humanity of Jesus

For a thought-provoking and profound suggestion concerning the theological and practical interrelationship between effective prayer and the humanity of Jesus Christ, see Josef A. Jungmann, The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer (Staten Island, New York; Alba House, 1965). This book was written by an acclaimed church historian and authority on liturgy. (You will probably have to borrow this rare book through InterLibrary Loan).

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The "Discipline" of Mission

I just finished reading a very interesting book entitled Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders, by Reggie McNeal. I found it to be a big challenge to my own life and ministry, and would highly recommend it for all Christian leaders. In a nutshell, the author says there are 7 practices common to all great spiritual leaders, one of which really caught my eye: the discipline of mission. By this he means that a great spiritual leader has decided to spent his/her life focused on their mission rather than allowing their lives to be taken up with others' expectations or agendas. They give themselves to great causes, or "missions." The author says that a great spiritual leader often refers to his/her "call" as the core, or essence, of what they are pursuing in ministry. Does this make you think of anything in particular?? I thought immediately of the pastor's (and my own) "call" to service. The author goes on to say that our passion, our talent and our personality all play a part in our discipline of "mission." I see this as a key to our leadership in our ministries, and our success as leaders in ministry is dependent upon our sense of call, mission, and passion for our goals. I want to be exercising the DISCIPLINE OF MISSION, don't you?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Recommended Book for Comparing Differing Church Governing Structures

Toon, Peter, et al. Who Runs the Church: Four Views on Church Government. Steven W. Cowan, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

Succinct and helpful articles on Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, Single-elder congregationalism, and Plural Elder Congregationalism by "patriarchs" from each polity.
Recommended Books on the Presbyterian View of Baptism

Chaney, James M. William the Baptist. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982 (reprint)

Murray, John. Christian Baptism. Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1977.

Wall, W. The History of Infant Baptism. 4 vols. Ed. Henry Cotton. Oxford: University Press, 1836.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pastors have requested sources for the study of the 5 great "sola"s of the Reformation (the authority of Scripture alone, salvation by grace alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone, to the glory of God alone).

Helpful Books on the 5 "sola"s of the Reformation

Boice, James Montgomery. Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?: Rediscovering the Doctrines that Shook the World. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2001.

Johnson, Terry L. The Case for Traditional Protestantism: the Solas of the Reformation. Carliasle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004