The Book Every Young Pastor in a Small Church Needs to Read

Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O’Dell is a must read for any young pastor leading a congregation in rural America!  I was deeply blessed by almost every page in this book and even a little humbled.  Having grown up in rural churches and having many friends who are pastoring rural churches I can testify that Shannon has hit the mark.  What you will find with this book is a no-nonsense, practical, count-the-cost design for much needed change in many of our rural churches.  Shannon knows from first hand experience the cost of bringing change and leading a dying church back to vibrant health and he has a story to tell.

Throughout Transforming Church in Rural America, Shannon tells the story of how he was called by God from being on staff at a large church to pastoring a small South Side Baptist Church in an 88 resident town in Arkansas.  Over the last six years God has blessed Shannon to be at the forefront of change in rural America to reach people with the gospel.  Today Shannon’s church, now renamed, Brand New Church reaches out to thousands of people each week through multiple campuses. Shannon’s passion to reach rural America at any cost is contagious.  Note this quote from the book…

As far as too many soldiers have shown us, it takes great personal sacrifice to willingly enter a conflict.  But if we are to fulfill our vision, we have no other choice.  It’s change, conflict, growth; change, conflict, growth; and you have to walk through that process.  It happens on a personal level every time we see someone freed from a massive addiction. The person makes a change, then there is a major conflict, but then there is unbelievable growth. It’s the same with church; we must go through change and then conflict in order to see growth. Nobody told me that before I went to rural America.  but it’s part of the game – one of the rules you will have to abide by play after play. When conflict comes most rural pastors give up on change. It’s just too hard. What can we do? We must be resolved to conflict in its many forms; we must pick our battles carefully, and we must choose which hills we are willing to die on- just as Jesus chose Golgotha. (page 81-82).

I highly recommend Transforming Church in Rural America.  In fact if you are considering a call to pastor a small church or a church in rural America, its a must read.  You won’t find this kind of transparency and passion for rural churches anywhere else. The retail price is $12.99 (hardcover), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $10.39. I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“The Treasure of God’s Word” by Jack Countryman (A Review)

The Treasure of God’s Word: Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible by Jack Countryman is more or less a coffee table book.  It is an attractively bound hardcover book with a soft leathery feel.  The pages have golden edge and the books general appearance is one of quality and value.  Unfortunately the pages themselves are thick and glossy, contradicting by nature the cover and golden edged nature of the work.

The Treasure of God’s Word is a celebration of the King James Bible complete with several small articles on how we God the King James Version and its influence through the years.  Stretched out between the articles are various verses and passages of scripture displayed according to theme.  At the end of the day its a great coffee table book, but not much more. Sadly once opened it lacks the elegance that it’s cover suggests.

Personally I was disappointed in how little genuine history there was to a book celebrating the 400th year of the King James Version of the Bible.  I did appreciate the encouraging selection of verses, but felt that they were under-served in their presentation.  Overall this will make a great coffee table book, but only for those who really prize the King James Version (almost to a fault).

If you love the King James Version of the Bible, its poetry and history… This book is for you. The retail price of The Treasure of God’s Word is $16.99 (hardcover), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $11.55. I gave it three stars.

If you are really wanting to know more about the history of the King James Bible as well as other historical English versions of the Bible check out Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired by Benson Bobrick and Bible in Translation, The: Ancient and English Versions by Bruce M. Metzger.  These books are a bit more academic in nature, but provide a great resource for understanding the context from which the English versions of the Bible (including the KJV) emerged.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Is the Kingdom now, not yet, or both? A review of “Chasing Francis” by Ian Morgan Cron

Chasing Francis By Ian Morgan Cron is an interesting and engaging book.  The book is written in novel format, but seeks to serve as an introduction to the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was called by God to “rebuild the church” and set about living a lifestyle and organizing a monastic order that set about to live out the Sermon on the Mount. According to the author and those who endorse the book, St. Francis has a lot to offer the Western church today.  I was impressed with how well the modern-day fictional story of a pastor in the midst of spiritual crisis “chasing” the footsteps of Francis on a pilgrimage really did lend itself to being a catchy introduction to the life of St Francis.

My fear with the book is philosophical in that while the church is being called to action, little is being said about the truth of who God is. A subtle “kingdom now” utopia of good works theme plays throughout the background of the book.  At one instance there is a suggestion for a church to send part of its missions budget to agencies that are formed around protecting the environment.  The question of the hour then becomes… “What makes Mission, Christian?” In other words, while we are preaching the gospel with our actions and using words (only) if necessary, what distinctively shows our actions to be gospel oriented?  Doesn’t Oprah give generously to just causes and Bill Gates?  Are they ushering in the kingdom or are they just giving money to a good cause?  What does saving the planet really demonstrate about the gospel?  I need words to tell me.

I know by fan’s of this movement it will seem like I just don’t get it, but the truth is I do.  I get it. I get it all too well.  We will teach social justice and miss the gospel all together.  I know that’s not being said, but I see it being done. Nothing wrong with what has come to be known as social justice (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc…) except when it dominates the platform it eclipses the real issue.  We must not forget why people are hungry, naked, and in need of a savior in the first place.  Social justice is a much needed band-aide to a hurting world, but Jesus is the only solution to the sin issue, please… lets not forget that.

The book is very well written including a study guide for group study found in the back of the book. I have a hard time recommending it because of the philosophical underpinnings that I have come to find lacking a fair treatment of the gospel.  The retail price is $14.99 (Paperback), and is available at a discount at  Amazon.com for $10.14. I gave it three stars

Nearly 2 years ago I came across this theme in another book you can read my questions and responses here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Seeds of Turmoil” by Bryant Wright (Review)

Seeds of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots of the Inevitable Crisis in the Middle East is a great book to help you figure out the history behind the middle eastern conflict.  I was excited to get my copy in the mail and read it over the weekend in my down time between events.  It was an easy read (perhaps too easy of a read given the subject matter).

The author writes unapologetically from a Christian standpoint.  He takes careful pains to examine the Genesis account of the creation of two nations through the seed of Abraham (Ishmael and Issac).  He fleshes out how these nations have grown and are located today.  I was impressed with the author’s knowledge and ability to navigate through the world of 3 major religions (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim) and various nationalities.

Overall this book was a great introduction to the Middle Eastern Conflict from a Biblical and Christian perspective.  However, I would have liked to have seen more detail and a richer expression of an Islamic perspective.

If you are a Christian and are looking to understand Middle Easter conflict, or if you are looking for a Christian perspective on Middle Eastern conflict… This book is for you. The retail price of Seeds of Turmoil is $19.99 (hardcover), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $13.59. I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Why Pentecost

We just passed the day of Pentecost on the calendar.  In the Evangelical circles in which I run the day is largely ignored.  It doesn’t carry the fanfare that Easter or Christmas receive.  It doesn’t even get the acclaim of holidays like Mothers Day or Fathers Day.  Generally speaking most Christian’s don’t even know the day has come and passed.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating a new holiday, but I desperately don’t want to forget the message of Pentecost.  Pentecost is about waiting on God to move.  It’s about fulfilling the great commission.  It’s about taking the gospel to the nations.  It’s about how the story goes on long after the ascension of Christ.  I challenge you to look deeper into the day of Pentecost. (By the way you can catch some helpful background on Pentecost here by reading a brief outline I wrote in 2007).

Review: Intimacy Ignited

I got this book thinking it would be a great aid to studying the Song of Solomon.  I now understand the intent of the book was more designed to examine sexual issues between husbands and wives using the Song of Solomon as a launching pad for discussion.  My understanding of the Song of Solomon has shifted over the years and I have come to a different historical perspective on the Song of Solomon which makes my view of the book come in conflict with some of the authors’ interpretation and main points.  None-the-less I still see how this book has some value for couples who may be looking for some insight into how God designed sex for marriage.

The authors do a great job of illustrating their perspective of the text and relating it to issues faced by husbands and wives today.  Much of the insight and perspective shared on sex inside the book are not new.  The book does a great job of illustrating the perspective of husbands and wives and how to navigate some of the more difficult issues.  Over all Intimacy Ignited: Conversations Couple to Couple: Fire Up Your Sex Life with the Song of Solomon is a good book filled with great perspective and counsel for couples on sexual issues.  However I would offer one word of caution… If you are not married, don’t read the book…. It really is written for married couples.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Intimacy Ignited, the retail price is $21.99 (Hardcover).  It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $14.95I gave it three stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Nav Press Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: Plan B by Pete Wilson

I am praying for Pete Wilson and his church today as they face the clean up efforts around their city of Nashville.  Pete commented on his blog (www.withoutwax.tv) that it was quite ironic that his book, Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? would come out the day after one of the worst natural disasters his city has ever seen. I see it as providential timing.

True to its title the book is about moving on and trusting God when we are caught off guard by the circumstances of life.  Pete has a personal and engaging style in writing.  He draws the reader in with his personal stories of setbacks, heartache, and seeming failure. Then in the midst of the story he applies the healing balm of God’s word most often by examining the life of a Bible character.

I really liked the book and appreciated the author’s engaging and transparent writing style.  I had minor disagreements with a few statements on a theological level, but the statements weren’t made as theological observations as much as running commentary on life events and were easily dismissed.  I think the book is a great read and a timely for what many people are facing in Nashville and other places today.

We are continuing to keep Nashville in our prayers.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Plan B, the retail price is $14.99 (Paperback), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $10.19I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Communicating with Children:4 Tips for Hearing What Your Kids Have to Say

Last week I posted that I needed your help on a project and promised that this week I would share more of my notes.  I was leading a short small group session on communicating with children and many of you weighed in with great comments and encouragement.

4 tips for Hearing what your kids have to say


1. Hugs & High fives or other forms affirmation

Physically affirming and appropriate touch is very important to express that you are a safe and will listen.  Some children crave this kind of attention more than others and really receive love well through simple things like hugs, high fives, fist pounds, etc.  This often works better at some ages than others as well.

I hug my daughter (4 year old) before and after every round of discipline and am always available for a hug.  I want her to know that even though she has been disobedient that she has not removed herself from my love. (the other side of this is that she needs to know she is being disciplined for being disobedient.  Being emotionally unavailable is not a good form of punishment… ie your children shouldn’t fear getting yelled at or pushed away because you are angry.  But that’s a whole nother blog post.)

On the days that I get home before bed time I try and spend 30 minutes to an hour holding each one of my children.  With my daughter (4 years old), she shares about here day and I share about mine and I read her a few books.  With my son (4 months old) I feed him and hold him up smiling at him and tell him what he is doing (teaching him to communicate).

2. Eye contact & other physical cues to let them know you are listening

Put away distractions and look your child in the eye when they are talking.  This may involve getting down on their level or picking them up to yours.  This may also involve turning off the T.V., turning away from the computer and putting the phone down.  Let your child know that they have your best attention when they speak.

Due to the nature of my job this is a little difficult to do.  I answer the phone when people are in crisis and stay up long hours writing paper for my graduate classes or sermon notes.  When I know I am busy I give my daughter 3 “tickets” that are anytime tickets for her to come see me.  She can interrupt what I’m doing for any reason, but she needs a ticket.  She usually burns the first two in a matter of minutes, but holds the last one until I’m through with my phone call or take a break from writing.

I also take her to McDonalds once a week for breakfast.  She looks forward to this “date” all week long.  I put away my phone and talk with her all morning about the stuff that is important in her life.  If all else fails she has at least one hour of uninterrupted special “daddy time” each week where she has my undivided attention.

My Son (again 4 months)  is a little less understanding, but I try and spend intentional time with him letting him explore my face with his hands and watching my mouth move as I talk.  He needs to know he has my undivided attention.

3. Ask good questions

One great way to show that you are listening and value what your child is saying is to ask good questions.  When your child is old enough to make choices about particular things ask them why they made that choice.  We just signed my daughter up for dance a month ago and so she will be telling me dance… so I’ll ask her, “what was your favorite part about dance?” Notice that this isn’t a “yes,” “no,” “good,” or “bad” question.  I didn’t ask, “so how was dance today?”  I intentionally asked an open ended question designed to get her to share more about world.

4. Rephrase to make sure you know what they are saying.

Rephrasing helps your child to know you understand what they are saying.  For example my daughter may say, “I have two dance teachers mrs. ___________ and _____________.”  I will say back to her, “wow, so you have two dance teachers not just ______________, Mrs. _______________ is in there too?” In fact in my house if I don’t rephrase for my daughter she will carry on the conversation by rephrasing for me until she feels I have sufficiently gotten the message.

It can also be great to have your child tell you what you just told them.  You might be surprised how many times they say, “yes, ma’am” or “sir” and they don’t know what you are talking about because you have used a word that is not their vocabulary.  Often times when I do this with Rebekah I have her repeat the new word to me and I explain it to her until she can explain it to me.