Tuesday, September 2, 2014

All Around the Web - September 2, 2014

Thom Rainer - Ten Ways to Double Your Church Volunteer Recruitment and Retention
  1. Tie their work to the vision of the church. First, the church must have a clear and compelling vision. Then leaders should redundantly express how different volunteer ministries tie to that vision. Such a clarification gives purpose to the work of the volunteers. And without purpose, volunteer ministries struggle.
  2. Consider recruiting with specific end dates. If possible, recruit volunteers with a definitive term. They are much more likely to say “yes” if they know they will have a time when the work is done. At that time, they can renew their commitment or move to another area of passion.
  3. Recruit toward a member’s passion. Find out areas where members are already passionate and gifted. If not, you will have to recruit with compulsion or guilt. Volunteers recruited in that manner are not only likely to quit their work at the church; they are also likely to leave the church altogether.
  4. Honor your volunteers at least once a month. A number of churches have annual ministry appreciation banquets. That’s not sufficient. Leaders should find ways, even if it’s as simple as a phone call or email or letter, to honor volunteers at least monthly.
  5. Volunteer recruitment and retention should be the priority of the pastor. While pastors should by no means do all the work, they should make certain it is a priority focus of their ministries.
  6. Get your best leaders to oversee volunteer recruitment and retention. It’s just too important to hope oversight happens without strategy. Your best leaders should have the responsibility of oversight of these ministries.
  7. Communicate openly and frequently with volunteers. Indeed, a clear strategy should be in place for such communication. That is one reason why number 6 is so important.
  8. Recruit through relationships. Strategically ask people who already have healthy established relationships to work together in a ministry. Those relationships will be vital in keeping people motivated. After all, we all prefer to work with people we like.
  9. Provide periodic checkups. A critical part of the communication process should be a checkup to see how each volunteer is doing. It should be open, transparent, affirming, and non-threatening.
  10. Allow volunteers to quit honorably. Burnout is always a possibility. Members may discover that their ministry is actually a bad fit for them. They should have the prerogative of quitting, taking a break, or finding a new area of passion.

Radical - [VIDEO] David Platt’s Personal Testimony

Doug Wilson - Surveying the Text: Numbers
Even though God commanded that the bronze serpent be made, and those who looked to it in the time of Moses were acting in true faith, the serpent eventually became a snare. It had acquired the name Nehushtan, and Hezekiah rightly had it destroyed (1 Kings 18:4). Nevertheless, it was a type of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14).

The people were afflicted (because of their grumbling) with the poison of “fiery serpents.” The word here is related to the word seraph, or seraphim. From this, and the description of the heavenly seraphim (Is. 6:2-3), I take these as some kind of poisonous winged serpent—small dragons. An image of one of these serpents was cast in bronze and impaled on a pole. Anyone who looked on their affliction there was healed of their affliction here.

That Christ uses this image to describe Himself on the cross is simply astonishing. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). When we look at Christ on the cross, we are looking at the crucifixion of all accusation. What is our snake bite? Is it not accusation? Is it not the sting of the law? Is it not the fact that we are guilty? So look there—there is your guilt, there is your condemnation, there is your poison. Look there and be free.

Monergism - 7 Free eBooks by B. B. Warfield
The following free eBooks by Benjamin Warfield are available in ePub and .mobi formats, accessible for your eReading device. These are classic works which are all highly recommended.  We believe no one should be held back from having a significant library of these important works because of cost so please spread the word to your friends so as many people as possible can make good use of this edifying literature.

Yahoo! - Library without books debuts at Florida’s newest college
The library opening with the first day of classes on Monday at Florida's newest college features a sunlit arched roof and cozy reading chairs - but not a single book.

A fully digital library is among the futuristic features of Florida Polytechnic University's striking dome-shaped building, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

"It's a boldly relevant decision to go forward without books," said Kathryn Miller, the university's director of libraries.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Free eBook: "The Pastor's Kid" by Barnabas Piper

One book I have been meaning to get for a a while now is currently available for free as a digital download. The book is The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity by Barnabas Piper, the son of John Piper. Every pastor should get their hands on this book. 

Here is the book's description:
The Only One Facing As Much Pressure As the Pastor is ... The Pastor’s Kid
Dad may be following God’s call, but the Pastor’s kids (PKs) are just following mom and dad. Often to devastating results.
Barnabas Piper – son of Pastor and bestselling author John Piper – has experienced the challenges of being a PK first-hand. With empathy, humor, and personal stories, he addresses the pervasive assumptions, identity issues and accelerated scrutiny PKs face.
But more than just stating the problems – he shares the one thing a PK needs above all else (as do their pastor/father and church) is to live in true freedom and wholeness.
You can download the book here. This deal ends tomorrow, September 2, 2014.

For more free resources:

Top Posts of August 2014

The month of August was another solid month for the site and below are the most viewed posts minus the daily "All Around the Web" posts.
  1.  "Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2 
  2.  "Rawhide Down" by Del Quentin Wilber: A Review 
  3.  Three Themes of Scripture: Some Insight from Driscoll 
  4.  "Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3 
  5.  "An absolutely morally reprehensible argument" 
Other top posts:

For more:
Top Posts of July 2014
Top Posts of June 2014
Top Posts of May 2014
Top Posts of April 2014
Top Posts of March 2014
Top Posts of February 2014
Top Posts of January 2014
Top Posts of December 2013
Top Posts of October 2013
Top Posts of September 2013
Top Posts of August 2013

"Neighborhood Mapping" by John Fuder: A Review

A sling in David's hand toppled a giant. The jawbone of a donkey in Samson's hand took out a thousand enemies. A laptop can make a grease monkey look like a mechanical engineer. A GPS makes a New York City cab driver look like a genius. The right tool in the right hands can produce amazing results. (11)

I'm a pastor and I need help. How can I reach my community? How can I lead our church to reach our community? If pastors and the churches they lead do not have a biblically based, gospel-centered, evangelistic-heart for those in the community around them, then what are we here for? Why are we wasting our God-given time?

For some time now I have been contemplating new strategies for our church on how we can reach more people with the gospel. Thankfully I came across the wonderful book by Dr. John Fuder, Neighborhood Mapping: How to Make Your Church Invaluable to the Community. The book is a simple to read and yet biblically based with a lot of practical insight. The book, in essence, seeks to give a positive answer to the following question raised by the author:
Take an honest assessment of your church's - as well as the surrounding churches' and ministries' - relevance to the community. If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would your neighbors even notice? If they did notice, would they care? Or would they say, "Good riddance"? (94)
With the declining influence of the church in America, I regrettably assume that for most churches today, the latter answer will be the prevailing one. A lot of churches are barely hanging on and with each death of a member comes another reminder that our days as a congregation are numbered.

So how can we reach our community? The following "formula" proposed by the author is a major component of that:
In the early 1990s pastors Leith Anderson put together a helpful formula for what community analysis looks like. He wrote that diagnoses (D) plus prescription (Rx), along with hard work (HW) and the power of God (PG) results in a changed community. (28)
In many ways the book fleshes out this formula by highlighting biblical truths with exegetical insight and practical strategies. Each chapter includes an exegetical section, followed by application, and finally a personal story from another church or leader. The book is very assessable and should be read by all pastors and churches serious about Kingdom work.

A few brief words. First, I appreciate the general tone of the book. The author is clearly passionate about reaching people with the gospel. He loves the local church and believes in her. The book is short enough to not be intimidating, yet the author offers a lot of great insight for the local pastor like myself. Reading the book humbles us when we realize that we are not doing enough to reach the community.

Secondly, the church needs to learn the following lesson desperately:
For too long the church has worked under the impression that people in need should come into the building to receive help, comfort, and compassion. But that's not what Jesus taught. We are to go out and get them. We don't wait for them to come to us; we go to them. We love them in such a way that we compel them to come to faith. (53)
This is something the church needs to learn desperately. When America had a presumed Christian ethic and the local church was held in high regard, churches could wait for much of the world to come to them. Those days are behind us. We must return to the original call of the church to go out into the world.

Thirdly, I have already mentioned the practical part of the book, but it is worth fleshing it out a little more here. What I needed was helpful application more than theory. Fuder provides just that. A sizable percentage of the book is dedicated to a number of appendixes many of which are questionnaires for churches to use in evaluating and mapping their neighborhood. I was thrilled to see this. Certainly each church will have to modify such resources but it shows the reader what sort of questions are helpful and best.

Related to this, consider the following:
Get to know our community thoroughly. Research the history, patters of migration, as well as demographic makeup - in short, do all you can to familiarize yourself with the community of your calling and residence. When it comes to place, community analysis is best achieved by those who have made the long-term commitment to stay where they have been called. many neighborhood residents have seen churches and ministries come and go, unwilling to invest in their communities. Yet it is important to understand that it takes years to show that we are committed to the welfare of the community.

Discern the felt needs of the community, such as crime, unemployment, homelessness, as well as family size, educational attainment, and housing patters. One suggestion is to ask those you have built relationships with who are already working in the community what the five greatest areas of felt need are.

Ask yourself what things the people of the community, Christian and non-Christian, resent that have been done in the name of Christianity and what they may be more open to. What are the cultural forces at work? How do they perceive Christianity? What has God used in the past to bless the community? (61-62)
Finally, a quick word of critique. Though the book is biblically based and gospel-centered, at times the exegesis is stretched. I will not take the time to offer specific examples here, but even a cursory read, I believe, will make this apparent. I am not suggesting that the biblical principles are off-based or unbiblical only that it at times forced.

Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough. I highlighted and noted a number of strategies I could utilize and the means to get there as I was reading the book. Such books are great resources for pastors and churches and I strongly suggest each of us take advantage of a resource like this and then get to work.

This book was given to me for free for the purpose of this review.  

All Around the Web - September 1, 2014

John Stonestreet - Respectable Barbarism
It’s pretty clear when a worldview is barbaric, because worldviews have feet. They reveal themselves in the real world. We saw it the other day when the Islamic State, or ISIS, terrorist group beheaded American journalist James Foley. ISIS then posted the video for a shocked world to see. Only the most depraved, fanatical person would label such behavior as morally correct.

But what about the respectable barbarism—you know, the kind that wears a suit, gives snappy interviews, and carries an advanced degree?

I’m speaking of the famous British atheist Richard Dawkins, who caused quite a stir the other day when he said that it would be immoral not to abort a fetus with Down Syndrome. Yes, you heard that right. Responding on Twitter to a woman who tweeted that she would face “a real ethical dilemma” if she became pregnant with a Down Syndrome baby, Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, replied: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Fully consistent in his atheistic, utilitarian worldview, Dawkins added, “Suffering should be avoided. [The abortion] cause[s] no suffering. Reduce suffering wherever you can.”

Baptist 21 - Fault Lines in the SBC

Fault lines within the SBC - Ashley Clayton, Frank Page, & Jon Akin from CP SBC on Vimeo.

Daily Signal - 7 Reasons Why the Current Marriage Debate Is Nothing Like the Debate on Interracial Marriage
Is opposition to same-sex marriage at all like opposition to interracial marriage?

One refrain in debates over marriage policy is that laws defining marriage as the union of male and female are today’s equivalent of bans on interracial marriage. Some further argue that protecting the freedom to act publicly on the basis of a religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman is like legally enforcing race-based segregation. This leads some people to think that the government is right to fine a New York family farm $13,000 for declining to host a lesbian wedding in their barn.

These claims are wrong on several counts, as I explain in my Backgrounder: “Marriage, Reason, and Religious Liberty: Much Ado About Sex, Nothing to Do with Race.” Here are the top seven reasons why:

Thom Rainer - Seven Thoughts about Christian Leaders and Platforms
  1. Platforms are not new for Christian leaders, but social media has expanded their potential influence. I look at my own platform as a resource God has given me to steward. I thus must manage it as any great gift God has given me.
  2. Platforms provide huge opportunities for Christian leaders to get gospel-centered messages to the world. It would be a tragedy if Christian leaders were not building platforms. The rest of the world is getting their messages out.
  3. Ego is a major danger for Christian leaders with growing platforms. I confess to that sin myself. On more than one occasion, I have taken great pride in “my” platform. My ego got in the way of the message.
  4. Monetization of a platform should be treated with the same stewardship as any other money we receive. There is nothing inherently evil about monetizing some aspects of a platform to provide the resources to expand the message even more. Many Christian leaders have for years accepted financial gifts for speaking and writing. The danger comes when the money becomes the end instead of the means.
  5. As in any ministry, Christian leaders must be above reproach in their use of their platforms. Like any medium or method, a platform can be used to tear down or build up. Unfortunately, we have far too many accounts of the former.
  6. The lines are not always clear between a personal platform and an organizational platform. I am writing this article on a Saturday afternoon (my theoretical “free time”). But it will be used to expand my personal platform as well as help my organization. The lines can be very blurry at times. Again, I must be above reproach and accountable for what I do.
  7. A platform can enhance a sense of Christian community. A platform cannot and should not replace the community that is present in a local congregation. But I love the way Christians across the world can connect with one another. I just pulled a statistic on my own blog and found that someone from almost every country in the world has visited my site the past year (nearly 200 countries). I love seeing brothers and sisters in Christ around the world connecting with one another.

Smithsonian Magazine - What Lies Beneath Stonehenge?
We walked the Avenue, the ancient route along which the stones were first dragged from the River Avon. For centuries, this was the formal path to the great henge, but now the only hint of its existence was an indentation or two in the tall grass. It was a fine English summer’s day, with thin, fast clouds above, and as we passed through fields dotted with buttercups and daisies, cows and sheep, we could have been hikers anywhere, were it not for the ghostly monument in the near distance.