Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm Now On The City

Mars Hill Church in Seattle developed the web community, The City for the purpose of connecting their people in community and service. It's not church management software but, in their words, church movement software. The service has now been passed over to Zondervan Publishers who are making it a resource available to other churches and organizations. I am presently a member through the Gospel Coalition, but am interested to see if it will be an expanding resource for more and more people in the future. Here's a video detailing more of what it's about:

Swine Flu In Iowa

Two cases of the swine flu are now in Iowa. One of the suspected cases was recently in Coralville for a conference. The University of Iowa Hospital now has this web page up where they are posting regular updates regarding the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus in Iowa.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Gospel and Idolatry

I just re-listened with my wife to Tim Keller's talk on the Gospel and Idolatry from the Gospel Coalition Conference and have to say that the talk really hits it out of the park. If you are trying to gain a fundamental understand regarding how to win your community for Christ, this talk puts the discussion into crystal clarity. If you are hoping to gain a better understanding of your own battle with sin, this talk will aid you in discerning your personal idols. It effectively frames life and ministry within the Biblical dichotomy of idolatry and God worship. Good stuff. You can listen to the audio or watch the video here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Godin on What's Broken

Good marketing, customer service, and communication in any business is what determines whether or not products sell or customers return. I am not suggesting the church should run like a business, but think there is a ton we can learn about how to be more effective in our communication and systems development. This video is from business guru Seth Godin regarding what is broken in the world of business. Perhaps those of us in the church can learn a thing or two from resources like this about how to better communicate with and engage our people.

iPhone on Verizon

Glory hallelujah! According to USA Today and Wired Magazine, the iPhone is getting closer to possibly cutting a deal with Verizon. Those with iPhone's in our area have long lamented the poor reception offered by AT&T. Hopefully change is on the horizon!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Power of Illustration

As one who has become increasingly interested in preaching, I felt a bit like a kid in a candy store at this years Gospel Coalition Conference. One of the very cool things about the conference was that it hosted a very diverse yet highly skilled line up of preachers (Tim Keller, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Ligon Duncan, Bryan Chapel, C.J. Mahaney, D.A. Carson to name a few). Another interesting twist was that most of the teachers were assigned a portion of 2nd Timothy, meaning that by the end of the conference the entire book was taught in completion. Side by side I’d never seen such quality teaching done with such diverse styles. One of my takeaways was the power of good illustration. Here’s a few of my observations regarding what makes a good sermon illustration.

1. Parallel the Meaning of the Text

A good sermon illustration must closely parallel the emphasis of the subject matter within the text being taught. It’s important to remember that if an illustration doesn’t strongly tie-in with the text it’s better not to use it. A lot of Pastors use stories or movie clips because they are “hip” or “inspirational” but in doing so, totally miss the point of the text.

2. Be A Story Teller

The best preachers are great story tellers. Even if you’re a person who uses a manuscript when teaching, the illustration gives you and excellent opportunity to pull yourself away from the text and fully engage with your listener. For the less experienced teacher, it is imperative to practice your illustrations so they flow naturally and capture attention.

3. With Age Comes Wisdom

In the pastor panel at the Gospel Coalition Conference Tim Keller remarked how he is a better preacher because he is an older preacher. At his stage of life he’s helped scores of people walk through difficult suffering, struggled with personal health issues, endured persecution, etc. It’s no question that, like a good wine, preachers can become more effective with age because they bring more wisdom and experience to the illustrations they share.

4. Study Culture

In my preaching class at Covenant I remember the quote that every teacher should have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Though today it’s probably more accurately said, “a Bible in one hand and a laptop (preferably a Macbook Pro) with Google Reader in the other” the point is the same. If we hope to relate to culture, we must be a student of what is going on around us. Using illustrations directly from the culture give us powerful points of relevance with those we teach.

5. Develop a Filing System

Recently I started trying to assemble a file folder of good illustrations. The content of these illustrations come from blogs, books, podcasts, emails, and life experiences. Many preachers find ways to organize and store good illustrations either in file systems or on their computer.

6. Don’t Overdo It

First of all, illustrations that are shared more than once or twice loose impact, so don’t become lazy by using the same illustration again and again. Second, just like the parables, illustrations are only helpful at emphasizing one or two points. Use it to make the point and then move on. It’s fine to say the egg illustrates three being also one, but the illustration breaks down quickly when you assign the yoke to God, egg white to Jesus, and shell to the Holy Spirit. I think you get the point.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spurgeon on Reading

Today at the Gospel Coalition Conference I heard Ligon Duncan, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi preach from 2 Timothy 4:6-22. In the opening of his message he shared this quote from Charles Spurgeon regarding Paul's request to Timothy in the final weeks of his life (4:13) to bring his books to him so he can read.
As the apostle says to Timothy, so also he says to every-one, 'Give yourself to reading.' ... He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains proves that he has no brains of his own... You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible... the best way for you to spend your leisure is to be either reading or praying."
The fact that the apostle Paul, who knew he was in his final days, was still concerned about reading and writing, gives us a great insight into his life-practices that advanced His influence for the advance of the Gospel and building of the Kingdom of God. May his example influence us to do the same.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What To Do With Criticism?

Having worked in different aspects of music ministry for almost 15 years, I am no stranger to criticism. It has come from people who are very close to me as well as people who prefer to remain anonymous. Some criticisms are delivered in the context of anger and others are thoughtful and constructive. Here’s a few things I try to think about when criticism comes my way:

1. What can I learn?

Though it is humbling to have someone critique your work, it is important to maintain a teachable attitude.

2. Always assume the best

Unless it is substantiated that this is not the case, it is important to always assume that people have good intention when they share their concerns.

3. Validate people’s concerns

In most cases, the person sharing the concern is very sincere. Try your best to “walk in their shoes” and empathize with them.

4. Rebuke when needed

If people are sinning in how they confront (critical spirit, arrogance, etc.), then call them on their sin. If they are complaining about someone else then ask them to take that concern directly to the person before speaking with you.

5. Consider subjectivity

Remember that people’s opinions are often subjective. Sometimes you simply have to agree to disagree.

6. Educate

Often people disagree with a decision because they aren’t aware of all the information that went into making the decision. Do your best to inform them so they can get your perspective on the issue.

7. Empower

Sometimes our strongest critics can become our greatest ally if we get them involved in the process of coming up with solutions. If someone doesn’t like the way a specific ministry operates, then get them involved in a group working to reform or guide that ministry.

8. Let it go

Try your best to not take criticism personally. If our identity is too tied into our work, then we will allow criticism to paralyze us, making us ineffective for the Kingdom. Once you’ve received and learned all you can from criticism, the next step is to move on.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

That's Easter

JT just featured this video from St. Helen's Bishopgate in London, which serves as an outreach video to be shared with unbelievers. It's a really clear teaching video on the reason believers focus so intently upon the death of Christ.

Easter Promotional Video

This weekend we put together a very last minute Easter promo video to try and make our Easter announcement a bit more memorable. I'm not sure we if accomplished that goal, but we at least had fun.

Friday, April 03, 2009

We Are All Addicts

Addiction is a worship disorder we can all relate to. Are we satisfied in God or do we turn to other things as our source of comfort, escape, or purpose? In some measure we all know what it’s like being addicts. Though our addictions may not be as dangerous, or obvious, or public, we have all struggled. For some of us, God’s grace has matured us in such a way that we’ve been freed from some of the deep entanglements we once had with certain areas of sin.

I just finished the book Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Edward Welch. Though it primarily references people struggling with addictions like alcoholism, it is a book that would greatly benefit anyone struggling with any kind of addiction. One of the things I enjoyed most was the way the book synthesized contemporary therapy-speak with a Biblical understanding of disease and slavery to sin. I now view this book as my counseling handbook as I meet with people struggling with different areas of sin. I pray many will read it and learn how to turn from their idols and embrace the transformation available only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Facebooking at the Office

Some of you may want to show this to your boss. I have never been one to ban social networking from the workplace, though I do think we must be very careful to not do it at the cost of productivity. According to this Wired magazine article, a recent study in Australia shows that people who Facebook (or use other networking sites) are actually 9 percent more productive. Here's a snip from the post:
Caught Twittering or on Facebook at work? It'll make you a better employee, according to an Australian study that shows surfing the Internet for fun during office hours increases productivity.

The University of Melbourne study showed that people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive that those who do not.

Study author Brent Coker, from the department of management and marketing, said "workplace Internet leisure browsing," or WILB, helped to sharpened workers' concentration.

"People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration," Coker said on the university's website (

"Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days' work, and as a result, increased productivity," he said.