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Tools of the Trade For May 11, 2020

Good morning! Here are some links to articles and resources you may find helpful.

The late R.C. Sproul wrote a helpful piece on the intercessory work of Christ called Jesus’ Prayers Keep You From Stumbling. This might be a good one to share with your people.

Matt Perman’s book How to Set Up Your Desk sounds geeky and nerdy, but it’s a helpful tool for keeping your workplace organized, whether working from home or from your office. And it’s on sale for $3 (Kindle).

Tim Challies linked to this Kindle deal the other day that would be especially helpful to you younger guys: A Little Book for New Preachers.

Howard Senkbeil gives us a peek at his book “The Care of Souls,” and challenges us with The Missing Link in Pastoral Ministry.

Here’s an issue you will face as you meet with your elders: Should Elders Insist on Unanimity.

The aforementioned Tim Challies reached back in his archives to repost What Makes a Sermon Difficult to Listen To?

Rachel, writing at Gentle Reformation, writes Give Us This Day Our Daily Friendship.

Chad Van Dixhoorn gives a helpful overview in 10 Things You Should Know about the Church’s Historic Creeds and Confessions. If you come from an independent church background, you may not have been exposed to the various creeds and confessions.

An article on The Gospel Coalition website surveys 6 pastors about their plans for reopening church when things settle down.

This is a must read if you haven’t already: 7 (possible) Church trends emerging from COVID-19.

Ray Ortlund reminds us that Ministry Is Never Just a Job.

Here is a review of a must-read book, Gentle And Lowly

Alasdair Groves, writing for CCEF, talks about Preparing Our Hearts Today for Post-Pandemic Fellowship.


I hope you have a good week! I’ll have a new blog post on Wednesday.

Tools of the Trade For May 4, 2020

Several places are edging closer to opening, though we seem to be a ways from that here in eastern Pennsylvania. I hope you’re doing well through this process. Here is a list of helpful resources I found this week.

David Prince shares some quotes from Andrew Fuller on “Contemplating Your Audience in Sermon Preparation.”

Here’s an article on finding forgiveness after an abortion by Wayne Grudem that you might want to save to share with someone or guide your own counseling.

Douglas Wilson, writing in Credo Magazine, talks about “The Greatness of Insignificant Service.”

Tim Challies reviews Gavin Ortlund’s book about doctrinal differences called “Finding the Right Hills to Die On.” Looks like a worthwhile read.

If journaling is something you do in your quiet time, read “5 Prompts for Journaling through Scripture.”

The folks at 9Marks have posted a bunch of articles about ministry during the pandemic. Here’s one that should be universally helpful: “What If We Have to Cut Our Budget?”

I have suspected that churches where the teaching is “light” are going to find that people who were attending have found other ways to spend their Sunday mornings. In this article, Brett McCracken tells why “Coronavirus Could Kill Consumer Christianity.”

Regardless of what has changed during this time, the majority of pastors are still preaching. Derek Brown writes on “5 Real Ways to Improve Sermon Preparation This Week.”

And that’ll do it for this week. Some good reading in these articles. Remember Evernote as a way to file articles you want to hold on to. I

hope you have a great week! See you on Wednesday. To borrow from the words of one news anchor, we’re one week closer to the end of this pandemic.

Tools of the Trade For April 28, 2020

Before I share some links that may be helpful, let me point out a new blog called “Counseling From A Christian View.” My good friend, Cynthia Epply, has been counseling for a number of years, working out of various churches in the area where I used to serve as pastor. Cynthia is insightful, helpful, and biblical in her dealings with people. She has “retired” from regular counseling, but her blog will further her ministry. Thanks, Cynthia, for this resource! Her blog is under development, but she’s posting articles.

Here are some links to recommended reading:

“Jesus Walked.” He didn’t rush around. David Mathis has a helpful video and accompanying article, subtitled “The Selfless Pace of Christian Love.” Worthwhile!

From time to time Tim Challies posts a sample pastoral prayer that serves as a superb model for a kind of prayer that is a “must” for our worship services.

Voddie Baucham, Jr., maps out A Blueprint for Multigenerational Faithfulness.

We recognize doctrinal differences exist among believers. Gavin Ortlund writes on “4 Ways to Practice Theological Humility.”

Here’s a really helpful article by Aaron Earls on “What Your Church Must Know Before Reopening Your Building.”

Here’s one to share with your people. David Prince gives some help on “Simple Tips to Study the Bible”

Mark Dever is a fine preacher, and here is a video on how he goes about preparing a sermon.

Jeff Robinson explains “Why Our Sunday Sermons Should Center on Sermons.” I wholeheartedly agree!

If you read nothing else in this list, read Joy Allmond’s “10 Ministry Idols Being Exposed By Covid-19.” Superb, superb, superb.

Chris Larson writes one that you should share with your people: “Live By God’s Word, Not Your Feelings.”

David Platt gives us “Shepherd the Flock of God: Eight Questions for Pastors of God’s People.”

Have a really great week!! I’ll be back Wednesday with some questions and answers I posed to pastor friends regarding life after the pandemic.

Tools of the Trade For April 20, 2020

I trust you had a good weekend. Here in eastern Pennsylvania the pandemic is still not over. I doubt that we’re close to the point where we can begin to see churches open again. That may be another 6-8 weeks away. We watched our own pastor yesterday morning, and he’s a natural in front of the camera. Ben, if you read this, maybe you should have your own show.😃

I didn’t post on Friday because I had nothing polished enough to post. I’ve got a few ideas that are still marinating, but every time I try to put them down in writing I’m not happy with how it turns out. So excuse my absence. I do believe the Christian blog community will survive! Another 😃.

Before I list the links to articles that I believe are worth your while, let me recommend Dane Ortlund’s book Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. You can get the Kindle version for $8. I’m in the process of reading it and the short chapters make it a good tool for your devotions.

Here are some articles and resources that I hope you will find helpful:

Here’s a conversation with Dean Inserra on preventing moral failure. There have been enough stories in the press about this, and some of us have seen the disaster moral failure creates in lives and in churches.

In 2014 Garrett Kell wrote about The Pastor’s Second Most Important Book. Guess what it is.

Eschatology seems to be relegated to the fringes of “evangelicalism” but Michael Kruger argues that we need it more than ever.

Jason Allen talks about God’s gifting of pastors to preach and teach. Well worth reading.

Here’s a brief video by H.B. Charles on benedictions. I wish more churches used them.

David Prince writes about making sure your church misses the things it ought to miss. Part one is here, part two is here.

You can’t care for every issue that comes up. H.B. Charles writes about not trying to put out every brush fire. This is must reading!

Here’s one for you guys involved in student ministry. Sam Bierig talks about the Most Important Ingredient in Student Ministry.

H.B. Charles makes his third appearance on this list with a discussion of why expository preaching is so important.

This provocative title – “Saving Hermeneutics from Its Interpreters” is a podcast worth listening to. Thanks to the folks at Credo!

And with that I’ll bid you a good day! I hope to have something new on Wednesday. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Tools of the Trade For April 13, 2020

I hope you had a blessed Easter. It certainly was weird not being together, both with church and family. Here are some articles for you and your people. I hope there’s something helpful on the list.

This article, posted yesterday, is one to share with your people. It’s written in a Screwtape Letter style, reflecting an angelic response to the Resurrection.

The Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site, has kept me amused for the past few weeks. A lot of their “news articles” are political in nature, but this one, written tongue in cheek, is also worth putting on the literature table: “10 Super Helpful Bible Reading Tips.”

On the Credo website, Jared Kennedy answers the question, “What’s the Best Way to Teach Preschoolers About the Resurrection?” Recommended for parents and for those who work with preschoolers in your church.

Dane Ortlund writes about “The Hidden Value of Pastoral Gentleness.”

Jonathan Leeman writes “Fighting the Temptations of Successful Leadership.”

Some years ago I read OT scholar and theologian Bruce Waltke’s book, “Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion?” Tim Challies linked to the Kindle edition a few days ago, and it’s still available for $1.99. Grab it while you can. It’s worth the read.

One of the things we watched yesterday was a lecture by R.C. Sproul on the Resurrection. It was good to hear his voice again. Here is an article that explains the doctrines of Expiation and Propitiation.

Here is one to add to your files, with the hopes that you never have to use it. Silverio Gonzalez talks about Christians who may be struggling with suicide.

Craig Bartholomew and Matthew Barrett have a video podcast on “Saving Hermeneutics from Its Interpreters.” I’m not familiar with Mr. Bartholomew, but Matthew Barrett has written some great stuff.

Two weeks ago I wrote about churches cooperating with government and staying closed during this pandemic. Andrew Walker says it better.

On a recent Crossway Podcast, Gavin Ortlund talks about “Gracefully Dealing With Doctrinal Disagreement.”

Jared Wilson, who pens so many good articles, writes about using the Lord’s Prayer. Good, good, good.

Finally, my friends Ron and Amy Smith minister as church planters in Milan, Italy. Ron and I worked together while he was in seminary, and it’s been interesting to follow their journey through these last years. Ron thought this would be helpful to us, so he sent me a link to a YouTube video that features Tim Keller (he joins the video about 4 minutes in). He thought it would be helpful. Thanks, Ron!

Tools of the Trade For April 6, 2020

Here is this week’s list of recommended articles. I hope you find something helpful to your ministry and/or your people.

This article, by Jared Mulvihill, wrestles with the question of the eternal destiny of people who are cognitively disabled. It’a a compassionate piece that does what I think is a good job of thinking through the issue from a biblical/theological perspective. Something to keep for future use.

Dr. Philip Ryken makes the case that pastors should be good readers, and not just of Bible and theology books.

You will certainly deal with grieving people in your pastoral ministry, possibly even during this pandemic. Younger pastors often wonder how to help people grieve when they haven’t gone through that. This article is helpful to you and your people.

Here’s an article that may help you with your own sanity. If you live within the Apple ecosystem, this article provides tips on connecting with more than one person via FaceTime.

I know that this is hardly a heavy theological periodical, but if you’re missing baseball, Baseball Digest has opened its archives going back to 1942 during this time.

If you are concerned about Gospel-centered preaching, please read Jonathan Leeman’s editorial in the latest 9Marks Journal, and then download this helpful publication, which has a number of articles on preaching through different portions of Scripture.

Jonathan Leeman writes a lot about preaching, and this article focuses on the question of how long your sermons should be.

Just read this: 4 Reflections after Listening to 18 Hours of Sermons in America’s Biggest Churches.


Thanks for stopping by! I hope something here is useful to you. Did you download the 9Marks Journal? What are you waiting for?? Have a great week!

Tools of the Trade For March 30, 2020

Here is this week’s list of recommended articles. I hope you find something helpful to your ministry and/or your people.

John Piper writes about his favorite image for understanding the Trinity.

You may already read Tim Challies, but if you missed it, his article “What Will the New Normal Look Like?” is well worth the read.

With so many churches streaming services, Peter Mead gives some helpful tips for preaching online.

Some of our people struggle with forgiveness. Dane Ortlund writes “Dare to Feel Forgiven.” This one is literature-table worthy.

The folks at Ligonier have been making some of their resources available for free during this pandemic. Here are some free study guides that can be downloaded.

Paul D. Miller provides some encouragement for churches staying closed. If you’re getting heat about making this choice, this will affirm your decision.

One very legitimate concern that churches have during this time relates to giving. Here’s a helpful article on encouraging online giving.

I take senior citizens – the most vulnerable group in the world – to doctor appointments. I’ve not encountered fear, but no doubt there are people for whom the pandemic is very frightening. Here’s help for you if you encounter fearful people in your church, regardless of the cause.

I don’t know if encouragement is a lost art, but we all can do better. Scott Sauls provides some, well, encouragement.

Ivan Mesa shares a list of free or discounted books that are available during this time.

Young pastors, keep this one in your file. A sabbatical – done right – is a very helpful thing.

Jonathan Leeman share some principles for working with teens in the local church.


I hope you have a great week! See you on Wednesday!

More Tools of the Trade

Because I gave last Monday to something other than the normal links to helpful articles, I have quite a collection of good stuff that I want to share before too long. I’m working on a post for Friday that I hope will be some encouragement to you as you pastor through this pandemic period.

You may have men in serve in non-staff positions of leadership and have the opportunity to preach on occasion. Tony Merritt, Jr. has an article that will be helpful for them, and probably for everyone who preaches.

Many people struggle with anxiety and depression, and pastors are not exempt. Scott Sauls shares his experience and some help.

Every church is probably struggling – or will struggle – with keeping ministry going. Phil Newton addresses some help for those who are pastoring small churches.

Jared Wilson talks about what the coronavirus deliberations reveal about the way we look at the church.

Tim Patrick has a podcast on planning sermon series. Hopefully you do advance planning, and his will be helpful.

This is something for your family: Lifehacker, a productivity site, gives information on how you can tour 500+ museums and galleries from your own sofa.

Most pastors have already decided how to deal with whether or not to hold worship services in light of the Covid-19 situation. However, some may face some pushback by well-meaning people. Ronnie Martin has some encouragement and counsel for you.

David Prince writes about how Martin Luther wrote about how Christians respond to a time like we’re experiencing.

The ever-prolific Tim Challies asks the question, “Should Christians ‘Self Care?’ He answers yes, and you should read why.

Barry York talks about “The Back Side of Preaching.” Provocative title, helpful article.

Do you have new believers in your church who need instruction on how to pray? Here is a helpful discussion by Sam Emadi.

I find that people are cautious about the coronavirus situation, and I haven’t come across people who seem to be overcome with fear. But people have questions and different people respond in different ways. Dane Ortland writes about what we should remember during this time.

Stephen Kneale talks about the expectations people have when they change churches, and tells us that they often are not fulfilled.

I did this, and because of a fantastic congregation it worked well. But going from Associate Pastor to the Senior Pastor in the same church can be a challenge. Jason Helopoulos gives us some help.

People in churches can have some really weird ideas. Katie McCoy tells us about one that seems to be making slow inroads into “Christian” thinking.

Here’s one to share with your missionaries. Support raising is not easy. Encourage them with this article by Michelle Dein.

This article is for pastors and their people. If you want to be sure that your kids WILL walk away from church, here’s how to do it, thanks to Sam Storms.


That does it for this week, except I’d like to make one request: If you know of another pastor, especially a younger pastor, would you be willing to share this blog with them and encourage them to sign up to get the blog post or be notified when I post something? Thanks much!!

Tools of the Trade for March 23, 2020

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

We enter the second week of this strange new world. I hope you are well!

My habit on Mondays has been to post a series of links to articles that are helpful to those in ministry or can be helpful to those to whom they minister. Before I continue with that pattern, let me share some other info.

My good friend Dr. Glenn Jago is the Senior Pastor at Church of the Open Door in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. Glenn told me about something he and his youth pastor, Duane Adler did this past Wednesday. I asked Glenn to write a few paragraphs describing an event he held online for his people:

There are several approaches to pursue to stay in touch with your congregation and beyond. I only want to share one particular idea with the readers of the blog, “For Younger Pastors.” It is Facebook live, and it allows listeners to tune in and add comments and ask questions.

Our youth pastor and I did our first live feed on Facebook at noon on Thursday, March 19, 2020. We preplanned our discussion and goals and identified a few topics that we were going to discuss. The rest of the time, we shared personally and then with those on-line.

I highly recommend it if you can avoid looking or acting silly. Humor is essential, but you must have a designated outcome and purpose for your time together. You need to answer the question regarding why you want people to listen to the Livestream and what you hope to accomplish. Once you determine your target and goal, then keep driving the conversation and toss it back and forth with the other person. We offered several suggestions for finding your regular life routine. We shared our personal stories to encourage them to think outside the box.

The goal is to keep the topics changing, exciting, funny, and challenging, along with words of encouragement. People need to know that they are not alone, and others are facing the same issue. However, they need to hear ideas on how they can deal with the crisis at hand. The bottom line, shepherd your people creatively.

Thanks, Glenn, for sharing that!


My friend Ron Smith is a missionary in Milan, Italy. Ron recently wrote and told me about this: “In church we are encouraging unity and one thing we are doing specifically is pairing up in “friends of prayer”. The idea is to pray for one another daily and to meet at least once a month face to face.” He went on to tell me that he speaks to his friend each day. I believe that began before they were hit with the coronavirus, but imagine how helpful it is with all that they are going through!


I want to re-emphasize something that I wrote about early last week. It is so important that you keep in touch with your seniors citizens – especially those who may be homebound or in retirement communities and nursing homes.

In many retirement/nursing facilities, common dining areas have been closed and people are having to stay in their rooms. For many that means being confined to rooms that are not much bigger than 15×20. Because this age group is so vulnerable to the coronavirus, keeping people in their rooms for the majority if not the entirety of the day is a common practice. One can only imagine the psychological impact of sitting in the same room day after day, with minimal contact with others. A regular phone call from someone in your church would be very helpful.


I try to keep my posts to a reasonable length, so let me share a few links and perhaps share a longer list mid-week.

Ligonier Ministries is allowing Connect Group Studies to be used for free during this period. This is an opportunity for a small group of people to work through a particular topic of study. It may be something you can suggest to your small groups since they likely aren’t meeting.

Crossway, publishers of the English Standard Version, has a suite of online Bible study resources the they are making available for free use for the next several weeks.

This is a thought-provoking article on what the coronavirus reveals about our society and ourselves. Thanks to Paul Miller.

Jamie Dunlop gives hope to the boring Bible teacher in this article. We all probably wonder if at times we’re putting people to sleep. A good read.

Hershael York, from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, talks about pastoral life and ministry in this article. It should provoke some good reflection.

Timothy Raymond writes about the life of the church during COVID-19.

I used to tell my congregation that my hope was that if I were to call them at 3am and ask them to define justification, they would be able to do so. Nicholas Batzig writes on the comfort that this doctrine brings.


See you in a few days!!