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Tools of the Trade For the Week of September 14, 2020

I hope you had a good weekend. Is your church slipping slowly back to normal? I’d like to hear about it in the comments section or by email.

Here are some great articles for this week:

Older Women, Young Churches Need You is a great article to share with women in your seniors group, women’s ministry, or as as an encouragement to some of the older gals in your congregation who have a heart for the Lord.

Reading the Old Testament with the Apostles. Sometimes the apostles’ use of the OT makes us scratch our head. This should help us understand their approach.

4 Principles for Re-Evaluating Your Missions Strategy

If you’ve come into a church as new pastor, you may look at your missionary commitments and wonder if there is any rhyme or reason to them. This is usually “don’t poke the bear” territory, but you can make some good changes if you move s-l-o-w-l-y.

Advice for New Seminary Students

This is a podcast by Jared Wilson and Ronni Kurtz. If you are, or know of, someone in school – new or not – this might be helpful/

Why Christians Replace Bible Reading With Other Resources

This article is worthwhile on its own, but it highlights three reasons why Christians struggle with personal Bible reading. It reminds me again that we can’t assume that people know how to read Scripture.

How Should I Pray When I Want to Quit Ministry? Hopefully you never get to this point, but there are times . . . .

What Christian Forgiveness of Abuse Means (and Doesn’t Mean)

Our staff had a very helpful discussion on sexual abuse this past week. Whenever the subject of abuse comes up, a discussion of forgiveness is not far behind. I found this to be helpful reading.

The Top Generosity Trigger for Most Churches

This was good reading, and not surprising.

5 Keys to Preaching to the Kids in Your Pews

Some churches are reopening without children’s ministries because of COVID. This writer has some great suggestions for not leaving the kids behind when they’re with their parents in the service.

Evernote for Pastoral Care

A good part of my job involves pastoral care, and I was looking online for resources to help me track calls and visits. I’ve recommended Evernote for saving articles like these, but here’s another use for this helpful (and free) resource.

Five From the Files Friday

Here are five articles from my Evernote archives, with the year they were first published in parentheses. Since blog posts pass by our attention and tend to fade into obscurity pretty fast, I thought it might be helpful to resurrect some helpful posts I’ve encountered along the way.

Last week I linked to an article about being a post-programming church. Here’s a followup giving some strategies for doing this by Bobby Jamieson. (2012)

One of the things younger guys have to decide is how they will respond to requests from people outside the church to do weddings. I’ll write about this at some point, but my policy ended up being I would only do weddings for people who were part of our church. But even with that policy, you’re going to have people who profess Christ who want to marry someone who isn’t a believer. By that time an article like this may be too late. But maybe it won’t, and maybe you’ll find someone dating an unbeliever and be able to talk to them before they make a mistake. Kathy Keller, Tim Keller’s wife. Wrote this piece. (2012)

Jonathan Leeman wrote a helpful article on a proper understanding of conversion and its relationship to pastoral work. (2012)

Here’a an article to share on the great themes of the Old Testament prophets. If you’re doing a Bible survey or preaching from the prophetic books, this might be worth reading. (2012)

I hope you never have to deal with younger family that just lost its father or mother, but tragedies strike Christians too. Brian Croft wrote an article that give some good counsel if you’re ever in that position. (2012)

I hope you have a great weekend!

Tools of the Trade For the Week of September 7, 2020

For those of you in the US, I hope you have a good Labor Day. There are small hints of fall here in mid/southeast Pennsylvania and I’m looking forward to saying adios to the heat and humidity.

As is typical for Mondays, what follows are links to good reading that you should keep (Evernote!!!) and share with other leaders and your people. I hope you find something useful.

My only preaching experience in the last couple of years was recorded on a weekday for use the following weekend. However I’ll be preaching twice in our upcoming series on Daniel. Those of you who preach to both a live congregation and a camera will want to look at this article that describes preaching to both situations.

David Qaoud gives some solid answers to the question of what young pastors should be doing during their first year of ministry.

I was ordained in a Baptist church and the Bible Fellowship Church in which I now serve has credobaptist convictions. The discussion of credobaptism and paedobaptism is worth studying, and Timothy Paul Jones helps by looking back into church history. (Note: Jones teaches at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

The current political climate here in the US is having an impact on how Christians relate to each other. Here’s an article worth reading. These next weeks are going to be rough terrain.

Luke Holmes asks if we are driving home the right sermon points.

Trevin Wax interviews Chris Martin on the negative effects of social media. Wait! There are negative effects of social media?? Who would have thought?

Kathleen Nielson explains why doctrine is so important. This is one to share.

Noted scholar Wayne Grudem writes a helpful article on the much mysticized subject of the will of God.

Most of you are probably already doing most of these, but if you’re looking for help on keeping your church “connected” during the pandemic, Tod Tanner has three suggestions.

“Overworked Pastors Make This Critical Mistake.” If the pandemic – or pastoral life in general – has left you weary, please read.

H.B. Charles, known for both his preaching and his teaching of preaching, writes about sermon outlines.

Last, Crossway has provided links to several infographics. Some good stuff here.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back on Friday (and possibly in-between). Thanks for reading!!

Five From the Files Friday

Here are five articles from my Evernote archives, with the year they were first published in parentheses. Since blog posts pass by our attention and tend to fade into obscurity pretty fast, I thought it might be helpful to resurrect some helpful posts I’ve encountered along the way.

Before I list links to the articles I’ve collected this week, let me pause for a brief commercial. I returned to pastoral ministry last past week and have met some great people, including those I will be working with. One of them is the very talented Melanie Trammell-Wenger. I’ll let Melanie take it from here:

Hi! I’m Melanie – I redesign websites for world changers. I’m the one you call when you have big, gnarly problems that hinder putting your website to work for your mission. Through User Experience Consulting we can:

● Identify the website’s pain points
● Point to what the site should be like
● Illuminate how we get there

Reach out today to get unstuck and back on track!

If there is any area of church ministry where the pull to be “relevant” is strongest, I would guess it would be youth ministry. Most youth pastors and leaders probably wrestle with the question of what to teach. This article provides some helpful tools to arrive at answers. (2011)

It’s easy to talk about the weather, sports, kids, what’s going on in the world. It’s not easy for many of us to talk about our relationship with God, our points of failure and growth, what we’re learning in Scripture, etc. Bobby Jamieson wrote this article on building a culture of spiritual conversations that is worth reading. (2014)

A guest post on Kevin DeYoung’s blog gives helpful advice for Christian wives married to men who are not believers. This is one you may find yourself sharing from time to time. (2012)

It’s not necessarily easy for veteran pastors, but younger guys may struggle with how to handle a funeral for an unbeliever. Jared Wilson provides helpful counsel. (2012)

When I was a senior pastor there were times when I thought, “What would it be like to close down everything and start church over again? What programs would we keep, why would we keep them, and what would we stop?” That’s kind of where we are right now, aren’t we? Many churches are “program-driven.” Here’s an article on becoming “post-programming” that was written in August of 2014 but might never be more relevant. (2014)

Have a great weekend and thanks for stopping by!!

Tools of the Trade For the Week of August 31, 2020

I’m a day late. Sorry! This has been a great week-plus getting to know the people I work with, getting to know a bit more about what I’ll be doing, and actually getting into the work.

Here are some helpful articles for your files or for you to share:

David Murray, who has written a great deal on the subject of depression and anxiety, explains the difference – and similarities – between them. This is must reading for pastors.

”Seminary is an incredible opportunity to grow in knowledge of the Word of God and theology in general. It can also be a place where one’s spiritual life suffers a slow, steady decline.” So says the author of this article. And what he says to seminarians is also true for pastors.

Until I heard R.C. Sproul teach on Justification, I did not understand what Roman Catholicism actually taught. It’s good to get our facts straight, and here is an article that will be helpful. It may surprise you!

This video by Jen Wilkin will help the women’s ministry in your church with the process of disciple-making.

Pastoral work can be discouraging. You may have already experienced that. Here are some reminders for when those times come. This is written specifically in light of the COVID situation, but applies more widely than that.

I’m sure many people are tired of “virtual church.” Though you may have discovered new ways to use media that will continue beyond when we call gather again without facemarks and hand sanitizer, this has been a hard period for both pastors and congregations. Ken Braddy writes about 7 Coping Strategies for Virtual Ministry Exhaustion.

This is deeply spiritual on so many, many levels, mixing intricate theology and rock-solid practical application. Thank you, Joe Rigney.

Greg Lanier asks and answers, “How Should the Preexistence of Christ Shape How We Preach the Old Testament?”

Here’s one to read and share with your leaders: “5 Relationships That Suffer When A Leader Is Emotionally Unhealthy.”

Clint Presley talks about the differences between “Attractional” churches and “Gospel-Centered” churches and how to lead people from the former the latter.

“My Vision-Casting Regret.” This is great reading.

Michael Kruger has a message of encouragement to the wives of seminarians.

Five From the Files Friday

Here are five articles from my Evernote archives, with the year they were first published in parentheses. Since blog posts pass by our attention and tend to fade into obscurity pretty fast, I thought it might be helpful to resurrect some helpful posts I’ve encountered along the way.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard something like “I prayed a prayer to receive Jesus when I was 4, but never really grew. So when I was 18 I rededicated my life to the Lord.” I most certainly believe that children can come to faith in Christ, but between the way the Gospel is often (mis)presented to children and the frequency of the above, I came to the point where I preferred not to baptize children under 13. And then I raised the bar to 18. One of the ideas that influenced me is represented in this article from Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

I linked to two articles from Credo Magazine last week on “How Seminarians Can learn to Preach to Normal People” Here’s the third installment. (2011)

How long does it take you to prepare a sermon? Is it right to spend the equivalent of 40%-50% of your work week on one sermon? This article is good reading. And the answer is yes. (2010)

Carll Trueman is one of my favorite writers. Here he raises the question, “Why is So Much Preaching So Poor?” (2013)

Christmas preaching was always a challenge for me, mostly for the same reasons the author of this article identifies. But it’s coming, and it would be better to think now about what you’ll preach than wait until Black Friday. (2011)

Have a great weekend of ministry!

How I Use Evernote

Evernote has been around for a long time, at least in internet years. I’ve been using it for well over a decade as a way of keeping notes and articles I’ve come across in my reading.

Evernote is cross-platform, meaning you can use it on a Mac or a PC. It is both a web-based service and a program you can download. Android? IOS? There’s an app for that.

Using the search term “Using Evernote” produced over 17 million links. Some people are making a living off of teaching people to use the various tips and tricks that make Evernote a powerful Repository of All Information. Me, I’ve explored some of these processes and while the can be helpful, I don’t want something that becomes cumbersome. So in answering the question my friend Tim Smith posed in the comments last week, let me describe how I use the program.

First, to use it effectively you need to have the program. Go to the above link and sign up for an account. It is free. If you want more bells and whistles, or are saving everything you read, you may need to pay a subscription fee (which is 40% off as of this writing). But for most people the free service is just fine. You will also want to download the Evernote Web Clipper that is appropriate for the browser(s) that you use. You can find it online or where you normally get browser web extensions.

Evernote allows you to create notebooks. You can have as many or as few as you like. Inside the notebooks are “notes,” which might be notes you’ve written, pictures of receipts, PDF documents, or articles you’ve clipped from blogs like this.

When I find an article I want to save, I use the web clipper app in my browser. I like my “notes” to be saved without all the eye candy that can often be found on a website, so my web clipper settings are as follows:

If you notice, I have chosen Simplified Article and I’ve also selected a notebook for the note to be saved to, in this case “- Tools of the Trade.” If you use a dash before the name of the notebook, it keeps that particular notebook near the top of your notebook list. Here’s a picture of my own list of notebooks.

I need to say, though, that you should pay no attention to my list. At the present time those notebooks are simply placeholders. All of the notebooks from Christian through Ministry – Uncategoriezed are currently empty. The others are related to personal info or hobby interests. The reason they are empty is that at some point I want to redesign how I store my articles. However, in the meantime, having 2000 articles in one big holding tank is just fine, because Evernote has a very powerful search function. I can type in a word and every article that contains that word will be listed for me. And frankly, that’s pretty much all I need.

Some people use key words to tag their articles so they can do more refined searches. Others do what I am in the process of doing, filing the articles/notes in special subject folders/notebooks. While filing with more detail does allow you to perform more sophisticated search functions, you may find that having a general “dump” notebook is just fine.

So that, Tim, is how I use Evernote. Hardly sophisticated, and likely to be viewed with scorn by aficionados. I simply want a way to find articles that relate to different topics and right now the general “Inbox” work fine. When I get around to deciding on a set of more specific notebook topics, I’ll have to go through 2000 notes and figure out which one goes where. So it’s obviously easier to categorize at the start rather than waiting until you have hundreds of notes. But my system works for me, and at some point I’ll do a bit of re-filing here and there to put them into more specific folders like the “Ministry” ones I have listed.

If you have questions, post them in the comments section (see the top of the blog page) or email me at and I’ll be happy to answer. Meanwhile, start keeping those articles that you think might come in handy to use in your study or to to share! I hope this has been helpful!

Tools of the Trade For the Week of August 24, 2020

On Wednesday I’m planning to describe how I’ve set up Evernote to retain articles like the ones I share on Mondays and Fridays, as well as how you can organize them to enable searching.

Here are links to worthwhile reading for this week:

Sometimes believers enjoy God’s gifts too much. However, there are those who fall on the other side as well. Here’s a helpful article on how to respond to the good things God brings our way.

Mack Stiles, a church planter in the Middle East, asks and answers “What Could Be Wrong with ‘Church Planting’” He writes about six dangers in a missions strategy.

Tom Rainer suggests how churches will be different at this point in 2021.

Greg Morse asks “Will Your Life Count When You’re Gone?”

This is an important article. I think we often assume that our people understand the Bible, but you may be surprised at the number of people who don’t. And that may explain why they don’t read it.

There have been some really good articles written about the Psalms, which seem to be enjoying a bit of a comeback, if that’s even a proper way to phrase it. Here’s one of them.

Brett McCracken asks “Are Churches Losing the Battle to Form Christians?”

Jonathan Leeman and Ray Ortlund talk together about what pastors need to remember when things are going well and when they are not. You know both of those kinds of times, don’t you?

Dave Harvey writes an outstanding article on “What To Do After You Preach.” You younger guys especially will be helped by reading what ate expect/look out for – and it’s not always “Pastor, thank you for that wonderful sermon.” Did you know that?

Five From the Files Friday

I know it’s Saturday, but we’ll pretend, ok?

Yesterday was my last day driving for the retirement communities. Among the men and women I drove to doctor appointments were former missionaries, former pastors, and godly saints who were still faithfully following their Savior. I took time this week to say goodbye where COVID restrictions permitted me to do so. I’ll start my new position as part-time Assistant Pastor at a fine church here in the Lehigh Valley on Monday.

Tim Smith, who is the pastor of a church near where I used to serve, suggested that I post a description of how I use Evernote for tracking all of these articles that I link to. I’ll do that mid-week. Thanks, Tim, for the idea.

Here are five articles from the vaults, with the year they were first published in parentheses. Since blog posts pass by our attention and tend to fade into obscurity pretty fast, I thought it might be helpful to resurrect some helpful posts I’ve encountered along the way.

Trevin Wax writes about the need for churches to honor their missionaries. There’s some really good stuff in this article. (2011)

Here’s a provocative article by Brandon Levering on why established churches should think like church plans. (2011)

These two articles are good for guys in Bible College or Seminary, and they are equally helpful for you young guys. And us older guys.

How Seminarians Can Learn to Preach to Normal People, Part 1 (2011)

How Seminarians Can Learn to Preach to Normal People, Part 2 (2011)

Do you have guys in your family, pool of friends, or church who, uh, need to grow up? Kevin DeYoung asks, “Dude, Where’s Your Bride?” (2011)

There we go! I’ll have my usual links on Monday and hopefully a description of how I use Evernote sometime mid-week!

Tools of the Trade For the Week of August 17, 2020

Mondays are for links to articles that I have marked out as useful for your own growth or for helping others. Here is what I found this past week:

Suffering is hard, but it’s common to all of us. Suffering can be debilitating in many ways, including robbing us of our joy. Here’s an article that encourages us when that happens.

Even during this pandemic, people seem harried. So many people feel at the end of their rope, mentally and physically exhausted. Pastors are not exempt from this, and the current pandemic may have taxed you to the limit. Greg De Jong and David Murray have some counsel.

There have been a couple of articles like this one on church people needing to treat their pastor graciously. Perhaps it’s just coincidental, or maybe this is another way the pandemic has affected pastoral life. Here’s one of those “leave it laying around the church” articles. The author quotes Ray Otlund: “If your pastor loves the Lord, is faithful to his wife, preaches Jesus from the Bible, don’t hassle him. If he’s imperfect in some ways, don’t fix him. Who can flourish under that scrutiny? Instead, get down on your knees and thank God. He gave you your pastor (Eph 4:11-12).”

My friend Cynthia posts the fourth and final installment on the Cancel Culture and how Christians can do better.

And then here’s another one to leave laying around the church. Thanks to Tim Challies.

Jeremy Rinne shares “Why Mature Christians Need Gospel-Centered Preaching.”

New Commentaries appear in record numbers. Having given away most of my books, I just picked up the 7 available volumes in the ESV Expository Commentary series. How do you know what to buy and what to leave? Andreas Kostenberger has some counsel.

Here’s an article from H.B. Charles on sermon prep. Always read sermon-prep articles written by guys who know what they are talking about. Always!

The late R.C. Sproul talks about understanding the promises in the Psalms about God not allowing harm to come to his people.

Crossway+ is a free membership allowing you to purchase Crossway books at a discount. In addition, they offer free ebooks from time to time. They are offering David Mathis’ “Habits of Grace” during the next week or so. Check it out!

Have a great week! This will be my last week driving and I return to church ministry next week. It may be a bit before I do anything other than my Monday and Friday sets of links, but I hope you will find the articles – new and old – to be helpful to you!