Tools of the Trade for the Week of January 11, 2021

I hope you had a good weekend! Here are some helpful articles that I encountered this week.

Social Media. Ugh. What a mess. If we’re going to use it, let’s be sure to use it right. Chris Martin gives “3 Reasons to Use Social Media for Good This Year.” While not directly related to social media. Benjamin Vrbicek issues “A Call for Content Creators to Cultivate Discernment.”

Read how to keep people coming back to your small group, written by Ken Brady.

Justin Holcomb writes a compassionate letter to those who are victims of abuse. Keep this one to share with those who come to talk to you about the abuse they have suffered.

Hopefully this situation will soon be in the rear view mirror, but Steven Wedgeworth shares some thoughts on whether churches should submit to civil authorities if those authorities try to curtail worship over health issues.

Tim Challies asked what people were finding encouraging at their church. It’s worth reading, and maybe even asking your own people to share what encourages them.

I love technology, but I have to agree with David Mathis. He asks “Are Paper Bibles Better?” Give it a read.

This article is for anyone in ministry, but is especially relevant for you younger guys who may not be doing what you’d really like to do. Jeff Martin will encourage you.

Mike Leake wrote one of the best, if not THE best, articles I’ve read so far this year. “Why We need to Break Up With Our Angry Friend.” It’s not what you might think, but man, does he hit one out of the park.

It’s a rare week when Peter Mead’s name doesn’t appear in this list. Here he reminds us that we are not performers. Please read it!


That’s it for this week. I hope to resume Five from the Files this coming weekend. You all stay safe and have a great week.

Tools of the Trade for the Week of January 4, 2021

Happy New Year!. Let’s start the new year off by looking at a number of helpful articles from the last week or two:

YOUNG PASTOR ALERT: Jason Allen provides some sound advice for beginning preachers. His experience as a new preacher is described this way: “In hindsight, that sermon was an absolute train wreck. Even now, I pray it was not recorded and that it does not someday surface in my life. My feeble attempt to preach was earnest, but the finished product was no doubt laughable.” Here’s some help in avoiding that.

Your people may ask if our prayers change God’s mind. Nathan Bingham answers this question.

ANOTHER YOUNG PASTOR ALERT: Here’s four minutes of counsel from Jared Wilson dealing with new pastors who want to quit. Have you felt that way? Listen to what Jared says.

Peter Mead makes what seems to be a weekly appearance on this site with this post about our books. Good stuff.

Paul Tripp tells us how to pray for 2021.

David Mathis reflects on John Piper’s first sermon at Bethlehem Baptist over 40 years ago. His message is for preachers as well as those who hear them.

Jared Wilson shares “3 Ways the Gospel Encourages Weary Christians.” Read it for yourself and then share it with your people.

Here’s another helpful article by Peter Mead titled “Spiritual Warfare and Pulpit Ministry.”

Finally, here’s a piece by Michael Kelly on what the COVID situation has shown us about the church. This is a good read.

Tools of the Trade – Weekend Edition – January 1, 2021

A number of really good articles have been written over the last two or three weeks. Here’s a group of them to enjoy and I’ll have more in a few days.

Cynthia Epply writes for those who come to the holidays realizing that things are going to be different – and not (just) because of the Covid. Holiday Grief is something very real to many who will miss loved ones this year.

Allyson Todd continues the theme of the above article by writing about memories, brokenness, and the things that crush people at Christmas.

And here is one more article on this theme, which no doubt has been amplified by all that has happened in 2020.

This article by Joshua Heavin speaks to the need to minister appropriately to people who have disabilities in general and those with dementia in particular.

Mark Redfern shares some thoughts about how the reality of how Heaven shapes our ministry and helps us overcome the challenge we face.

This is a secular article, but contains a lot of wisdom for those of us who are married.

Christmas is wonderful, but it can be draining. David Mathis suggests a silent retreat after Christmas.

The always helpful Peter Mead shares 7 Things to Pray for as You Prepare to Preach in 2021.

YOUNGER PASTOR ALERT!!
As you get older you may find that your voice has changed, and not always for the best. This article, again from a secular source, contains some very good advice on improving your speaking voice.

Ed Welch writes: “So, trying to follow my wife’s example, I recalibrate my expectations of the local church and summarize them this way. To be in the body of Christ is to be a pastor, not necessarily an ordained pastor but a pastor in that we are all called to care for the souls around us. Passivity is out of the question.”

Jared Wilson has “Good News for Those Dragging Themselves Across the Finish Line to January 1.”

Another helpful article by Peter Mead. He says: “As preachers we often think in terms of giving answers. After all, we are the ones who need to study for hours in order to communicate God’s Word in a way that emphasizes its relevance to the people in front of us. Here are a few quick thoughts, not about answers, but about questions.”


Have a Happy New Year and thanks for stopping by!

Tools of the Trade for the Week of December 21, 2020

According to my count, this is my 200th blog post. I appreciate any and all who find this useful. Here are some helpful articles for you to read, mark, save, share.

You should be setting up your planner or productivity system for 2021. Here is an article about being more productive.

Todd Pruitt, pastor in Virginia, shared (courageously) some struggles with anxiety and depression. This is good reading whether you’re a fellow-sufferer or not, and there is more to come.

For those who counsel, here is a reminder that Christ is the solution.

Over the years I had some small groups take a Christmas quiz. It’s amazing how much non-biblical “stuff” people think is part of the biblical story. Michael Krueger talks about 5 misconceptions.

Just read it.

Tim Challies posts a consensus list of the best books of 2020.

Here are some suggestions for what our churches should pray for in 2021.

With all the mayhem going on in our world (and in a lot of churches), you pastors may find this really helpful right about now.

Here’s a challenge about mentoring the next pastor for your church.

I haven’t read this but I’m going to. We need to understand discipleship as more than a course or a set of classes.

Zac Durant talks about encouragement in ministry as we reach the end of 2020.

And just read this too.

If you’re inclined to wax eloquent on the dangers of the consumerist culture (and there are some) at Christmas, here’s something to read first.


Merry Christmas to you all. And may God bless us everyone!

Tools of the Trade for the Week of December 14, 2020

Some really good reading available over the last few weeks. Here’s another round of articles that should be helpful to you in your ministry.

The 9Marks group put out their list of recommended books for pastors from this past year. Have you read any of them. Share some comments in the comments section.

How well do our people know the Bible? How do you think they do at reading it accurately? Here’s an article that suggests some ways to build a build a biblically literate church.

The always helpful Peter Mead shares some important tips on preaching at Christmas.

We want our churches to be disciples who make disciples. Here are some helps from Rusty Richardson.

Pastors’ wives get little credit for all they do. Whether they are active in a variety of ministries or if they are a homemaker with the job of supporting their husbands, their praises need to be sung.

One of my first articles, Companions for the Journey, was read over 750 times. A group of pastors has been a lifeline for me, and I believe every pastor needs other pastors to talk to. Here’s an article on how to get a group going.

Ken Braddy writes about your small group’s worst enemy during this pandemic process and how to deal with it. Must read!!

Ray Ortlund writes on The Surprising Ministry of Encouragement.

Finally, here’s another must read: Navigating Pastoral Care Through COVID and Christmas.


I hope you have a great week! Read – Share – Save in Evernote.

Tools of the Trade for the Week – Weekend Edition – December 11, 2020

I have too many really good articles to share so I’ll put some up today and some on Monday.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve had some grief with the new version of Evernote, but I think they have it fixed. I tried several other programs over the last week, but none fit the bill. If you haven’t updated I think it’s safe to do now.

Here you go:

Tim Reigel, who writes a blog for those dealing with pornography, has an article of encouragement and instruction to read and share. And congrats to Tim for being hired as Worship Leader for our church.

Joe Rigney, at Desiring God, talks about the value of confessions. If your church is “that way,” it might convince you to start leaning.

Pastors get depressed and anxious, and so do people in our congregations. Here’s some help on counseling those who struggle.

Your People Must Know Jesus.” Sounds kind of obvious for a Christian church, right? Not so fast. Which Jesus do your people know?

If you are preaching, here’s a reminder why you need to keep doing it.

The Covid situation makes us feel like we’re limping toward the finish line this year. However, this article shares some ways our churches can finish strong in 2020.

Who would have thought that facemasks would be controversial? And who ever thought we’d be wearing them as long as we have (and apparently will). Eric Raymond adds a voice of sanity.

If your church, like ours, is looking at a different kind of Christmas this year, here are some ideas for making it special.

Garrett Kell shares some things he’s learned from a recent pastoral transition.

Here’s one to read and share about learning to meditate on the Bible.

Luke Holmes writes about tools that every pastor needs to have today.

The always provocative Carl Trueman has a video and accompanying text (5 minutes) on some of what is going on today in the area of “expressive individualism.”

Kevin DeYoung writes about the 3 dangers of busyness.

Sam Emadi, writing at 9Marks, tells us why and how shepherds are shaped by the sheep.


More to come early next week!

Tools of the Trade for the Week of November 30, 2020

Here’s some excellent reading from the last few weeks. Evernote seems to have fixed some of the things the new release broke, so I can again recommend that you clip and save.

We all struggle with having a lot to do. “When your “to-dos” are longer than your time: A secret to balancing high-needs members and ministry demands” is worth reading, and you can find it here.

Aaron Wilson makes the case that the next generation of Christians needs to be able to articulate the reasons for their faith.

Trevin Wax has been writing about our approach to the reading and study of Scripture. In this article he talks about a very necessary quality we all need.

This article, from my friend Cynthia, was just a really good read.

Here are several different responses to the question church leaders are asking about what to do if our government authorities tell churches they can’t sing.

Ken Braddy writes about keeping small groups on track during COVID.

What we say – and don’t say – to hurting people is so important. Vaneetha Rendall Risner talks about how we might harm those who hurt.

Todd Hallman assures us that it’s ok to say “I don’t know.”

I happened to spot this book while browsing through Amazon. I haven’t read it, though Joel Beeke is a well-respected author. If the last few months have led to you or your pastor feeling that you are in a sparring match with the disgruntled, pick this up.

Most churches (all churches??) have statements of faith, but Jeff Robinson argues for the use of some of the classic Christian confessions. Worth reading in a day when churches have no sense of heritage.

The always-helpful Peter Mead writes about one of the challenges we face when preaching through an epistle. Grab this one!


That’s it for me! See you soon with some more goodies.

Tools of the Trade – Special Catch-Up Edition

Last week I posted a number of articles on preaching. This week there’s more variety.

Sadly, there are times when pastors fail and have to leave the ministry. I’ve known of several situations where that has happened over the years. This article encourages us to guard our hearts.

Continuing with this theme, here are “8 Red Flags of a Leadership Integrity Gap.”.

Ok, this is different, but if you are a Mac user and upgraded to the new Big Sur operating system, here’s an article that summarizes what’s new.

My friend Cynthia Epply has a helpful article on Grief and Loss During the Holidays.

Should Christians Use the Enneagram? Maybe I’d a dinosaur, but why do Christians gravitate toward this kind of thing and take it way more seriously than they should? Good article!

Few people comment as astutely on culture and Christianity than Carl Trueman. Here’s a podcast that you should listen to on Making Sense of Transgenderism and the Sexual Revolution. (Link corrected! Sorry)

It seems like we’ve passed through the following phases with the pandemic: uncertainty > camaraderie > suspicion > weary > grumpy. So, we need to know that there are some “silver linings” in this mess.

For the Church asked H.B. Charles “What is one thing the local church needs to get right in the 21st century?” Here’s his answer in 1 minute and 18 seconds.

This article begins with the words “Spiritual warfare is a tricky subject.” Yup. This is helpful in making it less tricky.

Have a great weekend. I’ll have more for Monday.

Tools of the Trade – Special Edition

Rather than do my usual Friday Files post, I thought I’d catch up a bit with some of the articles that I’ve found over the last two weeks that I haven’t yet linked to. I’ll finish the list in my regular posting on Monday. These are going to center primarily on communicating the Word, so read and mark, read and mark. And by the way, my main gripe with the new Evernote seems to have been removed. I have to install it yet, but that awaits the arrival of a new MacBook Air. Whoo hoo.

Ben Mandrell talks about 8 Tips for Unforgettable Bible Teaching. This is one for pastors to read, but it is also one to be shared with small group leaders and Sunday school teachers.

Ryan Higgenbottom advises us to not save all our application to the end of our sermons/lessons.

Kevin DeYoung has some words about pastors and politics, and suggests that sometimes saying nothing may be the best course of action.

Peter Krol gives advice on making the most of virtual small groups.

The folks at 9Marks continue their series on preaching. This one is “On the Personal Process of Writing a Sermon.”

Trevin Wax has been doing a series on reading the Bible more accurately.

Finally, Matt Henslee gives some advice about online sermons, something a lot of churches are having to do, continue to do, and may keep doing depending on the pandemic goes.

Tools of the Trade for the Week of November 16, 2020

I’ve apologized several times recently for the lateness of blog posts. I know I don’t have a huge readership but I do hope the links are of help to those of you who are reading this. I just returned from a week with my parents in North Carolina and have a rather large accumulation of worthwhile articles to share with you. So let me list several of them here, suggest that you read, save, and/or file them, and I will try to catch up with something midweek if not more often.

Nick Batzig writes a helpful article on the need for being discerning, especially in light of the amount of online content we (or our people) are spending online.

I believe that many people don’t understand the purpose of preaching. It would seem like many people come expecting something akin to a spiritual shot of caffeine, whereas – at least in my thinking – the real benefit of preaching has to do with the cumulative impact it makes. David Gundersen shares some thoughts about this subject. It may also give you some help in answering the “Pastor, we’re not getting anything from your preaching” folks.

This article asks “Are you experiencing holy FOMO?”

Greg Morse writes about driving men away from the church.

If you’re looking for some devotionals for yourself or others, Crossway recently released two by Paul Tripp.

Andrea Burke writes about “Autumn, Anxiety, and the World.”

For the “average” church-goer, church leaders, and even the spouse of a pastor’s wife (which would be pastors). Here are some things a pastor’s wife wants to be known.

Trevin Wax says that your pastor’s wife may feel lonely, and tells us why.

There are a whole lot of things that disturb us in these days, but David McLemore reminds us not to neglect the things that bring joy.

If we don’t want to improve as preachers, we probably ought not to be preaching. Preaching is a gift, but also a craft that needs to be worked on until we stop doing it. Here’s another helpful article from Nick Batzig.

I’ll close with this article that probably every pastor can relate to. Aaron Earls suggests ways in which churches can get COVID-concerned churchgoers to begin coming to church. Caveat: Since this article was written, the virus has spiked in many places, and pastors may be thinking about the possibility of slowing own the process of opening. But at some point you’ll want to address this!