Tools of the Trade for January 20, 2020

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

There’s some good reading in the articles below. I hope that you will find them helpful.

Ligonier published an article from the late (and greatly missed) R.C. Sproul on “Accepting ‘No’ As God’s Will.” His comments on prayer are helpful.

Kevin DeYoung writes about God’s existence, presenting the doctrine in less than 500 words. This is a helpful summary and starting point for study.

This is not from a Christian site, but “15 Effortless Memorization Tricks to Remember Anything” may come in handy. I include it this week because I didn’t want to forget. (I know. Corny.)

Colin Adams writes “The Eleven Commandments for Long Winded Preachers.” Not that any of us need that, but we might have a friend who . . .

How are Christians to deal with the various purity laws in the OT? Some of them get thrown in our face when discussing the Bible’s teaching on sexuality. Here’s a helpful article by Peter Leithart.

This article on handling disagreement has a host of applications.

If you’re looking for a helpful conference to attend, The Institute for Expository Preaching with Steven Lawson would be worth considering. Details here.

Tim Challies reviews a new book by Jared Wilson, The Gospel According to Satan. Read it here.

Ministry can become task-driven, but it needs to be people-driven. Here’s an article by Nicholas Batzig on loving the people God has put under our care.

In our Sunday pastoral prayer, we used to pray for a specific nation where Christians are persecuted. Joe Carter tells us where Christians are most likely to face danger.

Sometimes we can preach on a specific sin and leave people feeling that there’s no hope. John Sloan talks about this in relation to abortion.

John Muhlfeld writes in the Tabletalk magazine about Encouraging Men in Ministry. There are so many ways in which this can be applied. Read it and ask God to bring someone specific to mind.

Finally – and I might be the first Christian blogger to break this news – cartoon genius Gary Larson has a website where he displays some of his previous work from The Far Side and promises some new material. Oh joy!!!

Have a good week!

Tools of the Trade for January 13, 2020

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

There’s some good reading in the articles below. I hope that you will find them helpful.

First, WTSBooks is having a sale on their staff favorites from the last decade. Books are about half price in most cases. Some might be good for the book table, but you may want to treat yourself.

David Mathis writes about the significance of praying in Jesus’ name. This is one that is worth sharing.

Kathryn Butler encourages us to “Point Kids to the Gospel Through Great Books.” Yes, kids can still read books.

Erik Raymond writes about praying for our church family. Here’s one definitely worth sharing with your people.

Scott Hubbard shares a helpful article on what it looks like for the fruit of the Spirit to be in our lives.

David Gunderson tells us “Why You Need Sermons That Don’t Directly Apply to You.” Share this!!! Lots of copies!!

Here’s a video/transcript by Tim Challies on “How Should We Think about Technology as Christians?” Tim writes about this periodically and has some helpful insights.

This is another share-worthy article. Your people may encounter wrong ideas about the Bible that sometimes sound plausible. This will strengthen and educate them.

Kevin DeYoung asks and answers the question, “What Is Preaching (And Who Does It)?” Anything Kevin writes is worth reading.

Here’s one more from Tim Challies that challenges us to be reading.

John Piper writes about praying according to the will of God. Another one for the literature table.

This article, from a secular website, talks about some helpful planning and productivity principles.

For any of you who are church planters, here is a helpful article on patience in church planting. Actually, this is a helpful article for all pastors.

Have a great week!

Tools of the Trade for January 6, 2020

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

Here is this week’s list of links to articles and resources that you hopefully find helpful. On Wednesday I’ll be posting part 1 of a list of books that you would find useful on a book table, should you decide to go in that direction in your church.

Peter Mead has spent ten years blogging on and has written some really helpful articles over the decade. Here is a look back on the last ten years of his writing.

This isn’t from a Christian website, but Lifehacker has some good stuff on productivity. Whether or not you’re in to New Year’s resolutions, this is helpful as it relates to making plans and setting goals.

Journaling Bibles are available in a number of translations. I am expecting one today that I can carry with me in my man bag, murse, or whatever they are called. John Piper writes about how to use these resources.

Some of your people work in high pressured work environments. In this article, Matt Rusten writes about dealing with anxiety in the workplace. This is one of those print-a-number-of-copies-and-put-them-out-for-your-people resources.

The aforementioned Peter Mead writes about using multiple passages to present what the Bible says about a main idea. Good stuff.

Eric Davis writes at The Cripplegate, and here’s an article on dealing with 2020 election stuff. As I wrote a week or two back, we need our people to learn how to navigate through this process and still maintain unity. But we also need our people to behave themselves toward those outside the church. I love the title: “2020 and Your Political Cage Match.”

Here’s an article you may feel hesitant to share, but you should. Nicholas Batzig tells us about 5 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor in 2020. Hey! Paul asked for prayer. Why can’t you?

Colin Adams writes about planning your preaching schedule to balance the diet of your people.

Jared Wilson is a good writer, and I can’t recall anything I’ve read by him that isn’t helpful. Here is an article that I saw today on Faithful Application of the Word of God. Must reading.

Genesis 6 talks about the “Sons of God.” If one of your people asked who these being were, what would you say? This is one of those “send to Evernote and hold for future reference” articles.

Burk Parsons writes a solid article on prayer. His focus is on our privileged standing as a child of God. Really good reading.

And that will do it for today. See you on Wednesday with a continuation of the discussion on a literature/book table for your church.

Advance Planning for 2020, Part 4

Help Your People Read

Not long ago there were a number of Christian bookstores in our area. There were two huge stores within a 45 minute drive, and a half dozen smaller stores nearby, including one in our mall. All but one of those stores has closed.

Yet people are reading. Barnes and Noble has a large “Christian” section, and Amazon certainly does a brisk book business. In addition, we are blessed with Westminster Seminary’s bookstore,, and probably a number of others tied to colleges and seminaries. Publishers sell online, as do a number of Christian organizations. And then we still have the occasional “Mom and Pop” Christian book and gift store.

If your people are reading, do you know what they are reading? I just scanned a list of Christian bestsellers and while some might have value, there are quite a few I’d want my people to stay away from. Far, far away.

So how do we help our people read, and how do we help them read the right books? In order to help your congregation become better readers, let me challenge you to open a literature table in 2020.

One of the first concerns people raise is cost. Books are not cheap. But you would be surprised at how much you can accomplish with a $300-$500 budget and two tables in your foyer or welcome center. And you need to remember that books bought are a return of what you spent, so a good deal of the money invested is going to come back to you.

Let me suggest that you approach this in two ways. First, as I have written before, print out copies of good articles for your people to take. In the “Tools of the Trade” blogs I do on Mondays, I try to include articles of practical help for people in your church. Print out 5-10 copies and have a dozen solid articles in a rack on your book table. Change them out periodically to keep it fresh. If you call attention to an article during a sermon or during announcements, you will find that people will take them. If an article is especially helpful, make sure that you do talk about it, explain why it is helpful, and have enough copies for your people to take. When I did this, I found that over half of our adults would pick up the article I talked about.

What’s the cost there? Paper and copier costs. Hardly anything, and you’ll be giving your people some helpful resources. In addition, if they are not readers, you’ll be easing them into a good habit.

The most significant part of the literature table is a small collection of good books. This is not a place for heavy theological books that interest you. It’s a place for books that are concise and attention-getting.

Spend some time looking through Westminster’s bookstore or Crossway’s list of books and you’ll find a host of great resources that can be obtained rather inexpensively. We stocked our table with books like What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert, books on practical life issues, and the superb booklets offered by CCEF. Devotionals like Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies are worthy additions as well. We also generally had two or three ESV Bibles on display.

Gradually you can add other books that might be more challenging. But to start, keep a focus on practical helps, biographies, a book or two on Christian history, and such.

You then need people to man the table each week after church and make change. Once you replenish the money you initially spent you can replenish the table. You will probably not sell everything, but you can give away what you don’t sell. If your people begin to read good books, it is worth the couple of hundred dollars you may not recoup in sales.

Speaking of sales, if you buy a book from a discount source and mark it up to list price, you may be obligated to charge and pay sales tax. You don’t want to mess with that. I recommend you sell the books for close to what you paid for them so that you are not making a profit.

Sometime next week I’ll put together a list of my top 20 titles for a book table. But for now, begin to talk to your leaders about helping your people be better readers. You are making an investment in them, but if the money is not there right now for actual books, you can still provide great reading material through helpful articles.

Have a great weekend with your people. May God bless you as you serve him!

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have a great day with your loved ones today! I don’t have anything remotely profound to say, but there were four books that Tim Challies has highlighted in his daily list of low-cost Kindle books that I think are worth your while. Check out:

Timothy Keller’s book Jesus the King.

Albert Mohler’s book on the Apostles’ Creed.

J. Todd Billings’ The Word of God for the People of God.

Hughes Oliphant Old’s Leading in Prayer.

Grab these before the prices increase.

Tools of the Trade for December 23, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

It will be a busy week for most of you. I hope that you are able to have some quality time with your family and that you have meaningful times of reflection on Jesus’ incarnation with your congregation.

Here are some links that may be of help that I’ve culled from my reading over the last few weeks:

Pastors are not immune to depression. 9 Marks had an interview on the subject of Pastoring Amid Depression.

Similarly, the people at Core Christianity posted “What I Learned In My Season of Depression.”

Social media can be a train wreck waiting to happen. Here’s an article that would be worth sharing with your people. If you have a Facebook or Instagram account, maybe link to it from there.

Matthew Hall writes on “The Non-Negotiable Virtue in Leadership.”

Building Church Leaders, a ministry of Christianity Today, has a book worth your reading called “Rest and Renewal for Busy Church Leaders.”

Zack Eswine asks, “What If Pastors Were More Like Doctors?”

Here’s a challenging article from Desiring God on prayer. And no, it’s not a guilt-producing “Why aren’t you praying more article.” Give it a read.

John Piper answers the question, “How Can I Revitalize My Church from the Pulpit?” Video and transcript provided.

Nathan Bingham, writing on the Ligonier website, asks and answers a question that your people may ask: Is God Justified in Punishing Us for Adam’s Sin?

The Gospel Coalition staff has put together a list of recommended books for 2019.

Here’s an article for preachers by Abraham Cho titled, “Stir the Imagination, One Sermon at a Time.”

Jared Wilson writes writes about the best length for our sermons.

This article by Faith Chang takes a helpful look at trials. Trials are trials, no matter if they pale in comparison to what someone else is going through. One to share with your people.

That’s it for today! Have a great week!

Advance Planning for 2020, Part 2: Prepare Your People for Increasing Opposition

As I wrote on Wednesday, over the next few weeks I’d like to suggest several ways you can begin thinking and planning for 2020 by challenging you to make some commitments for the year.  

My first “challenge” was to commit to expository preaching. Today’s challenge is this: prepare your people for increasing opposition.  

If you could rewind history a few decades, you would find that Christians – using the broadest definition – were generally respected within society. That does not mean that Americans embraced the Gospel, but people were more “religious” in a traditionally religious kind of way. But we live in a different day.

In the last couple of decades, the percentage of people who go to any kind of church has declined. Even within professing Evangelicalism a growing number of people are inclined to view themselves as regular attenders if they go twice a month. Look at this report, which merely measures affiliation with a religious group. A soft, flabby “Christianity” may still be tolerated, but people who believe the Bible? Not so much.

We dare not forget this: while we who are pastors spend much if not most of our time with people who believe what we do, our people do not. Of course, you know this. But they are living it. And they need to know how to survive. 

That’s one reason I believe expository preaching (Challenge #1) is so vital. Regular doses of helpful life lessons will just not cut it in helping our people learn to live as those who are increasingly viewed as outsiders and extremists. Our people need to be built up in their faith, not simply given practical advice. They need to know God. They need to go deep in their understanding of the Gospel. They need to know the Bible and know it well.

We don’t need preachers who harp on how bad society is. We had that in the not-so-distant past, and it didn’t help anyone. Instead our people need shepherd-preachers who will fill their minds and hearts with truth. Then they will be strong enough to face the opposition they will encounter and the lies their children will be taught, and do so with grace and knowledge. We want them to, as Paul says so often, “stand firm.” 

Here’s a suggestion: Pick up some good commentaries on 1 & 2 Peter and lead your church through a series on how to follow Christ in a hostile world. You will do them everlasting good.