For Your Christmas List

Laura and I don’t watch a lot of network TV, so when we watch we don’t see commercials. However I do catch my share during football games, and it appears that people give each other cars and trucks at this festive season. My guess is that your budget won’t allow the exchange of new BMWs, so let me give you a list of books that you might want to include on your Christmas list.

I’m going to give you the Amazon links, but don’t forget to check out the good folks at You may find their prices lower. I’ll also acknowledge that I haven’t read some of these, but have recommended them based on the author, reviews, or what I’d have on my list.

The best book on helping people that I can remember reading is Ed Welch’s Side By Side: Walking With Others in Wisdom and Love. This is a must read for pastors and would be worth working through with your elders or staff.

Fifteen Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me is a compilation of advice put out by The Gospel Coalition. By about two months into your pastorate you’ve probably said, “They didn’t teach me about this” a few times.

Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Ministers. You actually might want to pick this up now for $3 in Kindle format. Hopefully you give great attention to your preaching. This encourages and helps you give great attention to pubic prayer. Hughes Oliphant Old wrote this one.

The late John Stott wrote several books on preaching. The Challenge of Preaching is an abridgment of an earlier work. That earlier work is the classic Between Two Worlds. In a past blog post I recommended reading at least one book each year on preaching. Either one of these would be worthwhile.

I love listening to Dr. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He’s a great preacher, and wrote a helpful book on preaching called He Is Not Silent: Preaching in A Post-Modern World.

One other book on preaching that I enjoyed was The Archer and the Arrow. Geared more for beginning preachers, it’s worth reading no matter how long you’ve preached. Philip Jensen is the author, and he challenges us with these words: “My aim is to preach the gospel by prayerfully expounding the Bible to the people God has given me to love.”

While dealing with preaching to some extent, Jonathan Leeman’s book Word Centered Church is a challenge to build all of what we do in our churches around the Bible. I remember this being a very encouraging book, especially if you are looking at gimmicky churches growing while you seem to plod along.

Leadership is a challenging task, and Australian author Craig Hamilton has written a well-regarded book called Wisdom in Leadership. I love the subtitle: “The How and Why of Leading the People You Serve.”

Reformation Theology is both a book on theology and a book on church history. I’ve been reading through it and it is quite engaging. Matthew Barrett edits this compilation. Dr. Philip Ryken says, “Dr. Matthew Barrett has assembled a first-rate team of pastors and scholars to write an anniversary volume of the Reformation that promises to receive a welcoming readership across a wide spectrum of the evangelical community. At a time when some are suggesting that for all practical purposes the Reformation is ‘over,’ Barrett’s Reformation Theology offers a needed corrective by showing the relevance of the Reformation for healthy church ministry and the Christian life today.”

Also on the subject of church history is Michael Haykin’s Rediscovering the Church Fathers. It’s on my list of soon-to-read books.

I bought this book, All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Captone by Brian Tabb yesterday and look forward to reading it. While I hold to a specific eschatological position, I hold it a bit more loosely than I used to. One of the reasons for that was my own experience of preaching through Revelation several years ago. Looks good!

Finally, while not a book, you can get a year’s subscription to Christianity Today for $15 that also gives you access to all of the articles from CT and Leadership Journal from the last several decades. Don’t hesitate, though, because this price won’t last for long.

Have a great weekend of ministry! See you on Monday

Tools of the Trade for November 25, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

I’m a bit late today, but here are some links that are worth looking at. I hope you had a good weekend of ministry.

People in your church are hurting. Here’s one of those articles I’d put on the literature table.

Simonetta Carr, writing for Core Christianity, tells us why people ignore church history but shouldn’t.

Burk Parsons, from Ligonier Ministries, talks about the value of creeds and confessions.

Pastors burn out. Do you know the signs? Do you know what you should do when it happens? This is worth the read regardless of how you are feeling at the moment.

While most pastors are hard working and burnout can be a problem, being lazy is also a potential problem.

Here’s encouragement for those of you ministering in small towns or rural areas.

How do you find God’s will? I’ve heard and read a lot of well-meaning suggestions that, to be honest, don’t have really solid biblical root. Aimee Joseph’s article may be really helpful.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably reading Tim Challies’ blog. Here is his review of a new book for preachers.

“We’re giving up Wednesday night services. We’re giving up Sunday night services. We’re shortening the preaching on Sunday morning. Is it any wonder that our churches are so weak?” Steve Lawson talks about the importance of preaching in this short video.

Tim Challies provides a service for believers by giving us a list of Kindle books on sale almost every day. Thanks, Tim! One of the books he linked to this morning is a must read for you as a pastor, and if you can find a way to get How to Walk into Church into the hands of your people, your church will be better for it. It’s 99 cents for you today. Don’t hesitate.

Have a great week. I hope to see you Wednesday.

A Prayer for Younger Pastors Who Struggle

Father, I pray for the many younger men in ministry who are working to shepherd the people you have entrusted to them. In many cases they are in smaller churches and may be the only ones on staff. It can be a lonely and difficult calling.

Some young pastors have noticed that families who used to attend are missing. They’ve learned that these families have left for what they imagine are greener pastures – larger churches with bells and whistles that smaller churches cannot have. These families don’t realize that smaller churches feel the loss of younger families deeply. Their loss can be discouraging.

Others finished preaching this past Sunday only to be confronted by someone with a complaint. Whether the concern was valid or not, these young men felt ambushed at a time when they had just spent their energies preaching. This can take the wind out of their sails.

I want to also pray for those who are dealing with difficult situations in the lives of church families. Some are counseling people older than they are, trying to provide godly wisdom for parents with a rebellious teen. Others are doing their best to help couples whose marriages are in trouble. These young pastors often feel overwhelmed by the difficult counseling situations they face.

Some face significant decisions and wish they had someone to talk to – someone they could trust not to betray a confidence. Some need their elders to step up and share the load. Some are wondering if they are in the right place, if it’s time to think about moving on. A lot of them are thinking “They sure didn’t teach us this in seminary!” Some feel at the end of their rope.

Others in this group of your servants are trying to balance the needs of the church with the needs of their own young families. They need time to do their work well, but they don’t want to neglect their wive and children.

Some are being tempted to sacrifice substance for a style and approach that supposedly draws more people. They look at larger churches and wonder why their own church does not seem to be growing. Help them to stay faithful to your Word. Help them to be creative where creativity does not water down the message of the Gospel.

Then, Father, there are some who are being mistreated. For some it an unsupportive and even combative board. For others there has been betrayal, a withdrawal of support. Some are not being paid fairly and can’t make it on their salaries. Some face regular criticism but are told not to be so sensitive when they talk to others in leadership. They feel hopeless and disillusioned.

For all of these, and others, I pray that you would extend great grace, peace, and wisdom. They are young, vulnerable, and may be questioning their calling. Please encourage them and bring people into their lives who will stand with them and pray for them.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Tools of the Trade for November 18, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

Several of the articles that follow are worth sharing. In a previous blog post I described how I had a literature rack in our church where I had copies of significant articles that I thought our people would find helpful. I’d recommend that for your church too.

Many of these articles deal with parenting. All are worth your time as a pastor, and hopefully there’s something here that you can share with some of your people in need.

Sometimes people wonder if they’re doing the right thing with their life. How Can I Know If I’m Wasting My Life may be a helpful article to enable them to see their lives clearly.

People going through trial need hope. Here’s some help from someone who’s been there.

Talking to Kids About Gender in a Gender-Confused Age. This is one to share with your youth pastor and the parents of the kids in your church.

We Need Not Parent in Fear. Here’s another article that the parents in your church will find helpful.

Joe Carter tells us 9 Things You Should Know About Cohabitation in America.

Dysfunctional Elders Make a Dysfunctional Church. This is worth prayerfully sharing with your elder board.

We follow Christ step-by-step. Matt Chandler’s article on following Christ is helpful.

Depression is far from just an adult or teen problem. What do you do when your child is depressed? Christine Chappell provides some guidance.

Tools of the Trade for November 11, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

First, a huge thanks to all our veterans for your service and sacrifice. If you’re a reading this and have served in our military, please know that you are appreciated.

Here are some good reading (and listening) materials for this week:

Gavin Ortland addresses the question, “Is Evangelicalism Out of Touch with Church History?” on a podcast.

Maybe you serve in a small community. Here’s some encouragement for you in a book recommendation.

Chopo Mwanza, a pastor in Zambia, tells us about six kinds of members who build up the church. He also tells us about four members who tear it down.

How much humor should we include in our sermons? Here’s an article that offers some helpful suggestions.

There are times when our people just don’t seem to connect with wanting to read the Bible. Of course, pastors never have that problem, so you’ll want to pass this on to those who might.

Here’s another article encouraging those of you who minister in small communities. And if that describes you, thanks for being faithful!

“Why I’m A Better Pastor for You Than Keller or Piper.” It’s true.

A number of your people probably have family members who are not believers. This is a helpful article to share with them.

Not everyone has the opportunity to go to seminary, but here are some good reasons why you should go if you can.

This video might save your ministry if you are a new pastor.

From Tabletalk Magazine comes an article on humility in ministry.

Do you get uptight about whether or not you are successful? Read this and then listen to John MacArthur’s superb sermon from 2010’s Together for the Gospel

Give Them Something to Eat

To whom did you preach on Sunday?

You may answer, “I preached to my church.” But who was there?

In the back there’s a man who’s been coming for decades. But you’re not sure that he’s really grasped the Gospel. A few rows in front of him sits a family. On the outside they look, well, normal. But he has been flirting with a woman at work, and the marriage is headed for trouble.

Close to the front is a single woman. She sits by herself this morning as usual. A row or two in front of her is a family with a teenager. He’s disinterested and he has no problem showing it. His parents are worried. His choice of friends concerns them.

There’s a group of older ladies sitting together, as they do every Sunday. Their health is slowly declining, and there are fewer of them than there were a couple of years ago.

There’s the girl in the back who is a new believer. She brought her young children, but her husband has no interest. In fact he’s getting tired of the changes in the woman he married.

There’s a man who will find out this week whether he’s going to survive the job cuts at work. There’s a woman who’ll find a lump that wasn’t there a few weeks ago.

These – and many others – sit in our churches each week. They may be going through deep struggles, or they might tell you that life is good right now. Most of them have normal strains and stresses, joys and sorrows.

What do you have to give to them? All those people in need?

One day Jesus is teaching a large group of people. The day moves toward dusk. It’s time for the evening meal. The disciples want Jesus to send them away so they can get some food. And Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”

The disciples protest. Where are they going to find food to feed them? Look at the crowd. Tired old people. Children getting fussy. Too many people. Too many needs.

We all know what happens. The loaves and the fishes. Jesus miraculously provides for the needs of the crowd. But he also provides something for the disciples too.

Their task is not about earthly food, but spiritual. And those who follow in the footsteps of the apostles – the preachers and teachers – are charged with feeding spiritual food to our people. Big church, little church – it doesn’t matter. Whoever is sitting out there needs to hear from God.

Jesus says “Give them something to eat.” But we can’t. Not on our own.

No amount of eloquence, no clever video, no carefully crafted exposition will reach the hearts of the needy people in our churches without the work of Jesus. That’s what Jesus is teaching his disciples and what he is teaching us in this story.

When you preach or teach this weekend you are insufficient in yourself for the task. We are only sufficient through Christ.

But the good news is that through Christ we are sufficient. And through our feeble efforts Jesus will feed his people.

Tools of the Trade for November 4, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

November already! Where has the year gone?

Here are some worthwhile articles to read or share for this week.

There were some excellent Church History/Reformation Day resources, including this podcast by Michael Reeves on “What Do Protestants and Roman Catholics Disagree About?”

Gavin Ortland talks about the relevance of church history to modern believers.

John Piper answers the question, “What Did the Reformation Give Us?”

Finally, an article by the late R.C. Sproul on the justification by faith that is well worth reading and sharing.

Some articles for pastors in particular:

3 Blind Spots of the Younger Christian Leader

5 Ways to Build Trust as A Pastor

Stop Comparing Yourself to Well-Known Pastors

Shepherding Abuse Victims

This article looks at our aims in preaching: Simple Encouragement.

Here’s a book that Tim Challies pointed to that is $2.99 for Kindle and $3.49 in hardcover. The title is On Being A Pastor, edited by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. Act fast before the price changes.

9Marks had an article on 9 Suggestions for Better Member’s Meetings. I loved the first one: stop calling them business meetings.

Here are some articles for pastors and those who teach or lead groups.

7 Things to Avoid When Teaching Bible Study

How to Help Others Understand and Apply the Bible

See you Wednesday!