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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Book Review: Pastoral Leadership Is...

Christian Leadership is always a sticky subject to handle. We know as Christian Leaders we are to be different than the world so "baptizing" secular leadership principles, which usually focuses on the personality of the leader, does not always seem the best way to go. However, there is a need in 21st century churches for biblical, pastoral leadership. So how should one lead biblically? What does it mean to be a pastor in the post-modern, Western world? Dave Early had addressed these issues in his book "Pastoral Leadership Is...: How to Shepherd God's People with Passion and Confidence." 

Using Exodus 18:19-23 as the main basis for his thesis, Early teaches that the main three aspects of biblical leadership is prayer, preaching, and raising up new leaders (or discipleship or equipping - however one wants to label that). These three facets of biblical, pastoral leadership also provide the main structure for the book.

The book is divided up into 5 sections of 6 chapters each. This provides the reader with a nice format for using this book as a daily devotion, which is suggested by Early. This is how I utilized this book and when I am at a church with pastoral staff members, we will use this book as a devotional guide in staff meetings. Going through the book over 5 weeks allows the reader to think through each topic addressed and time to incorporate suggestions given in the book into the reader's life.

The first section of the book is about the internal man. Pastoral leadership begins with a personal relationship with Christ that is growing and constant. Addressing issues as the call to ministry, spiritual warfare, purity, and other topics, the case is made that leadership begins internally and flows outward. A leader is a lifelong disciple of Christ, always growing in Him.

The section part of the book deal with the first of the three facets of pastoral leadership. Prayer should be paramount in the pastor's life. Moving again from the internal to the external, Early deals with the pastor's personal prayer life and moves to leading the church to be a house of prayer.

Thirdly, Early writes about preaching. Here he moves from theoretical to practical. Beginning with the importance of preaching and moving to some basic "how-to" chapters, the author helps the reader understand that the pulpit cannot be neglected when it comes to pastoral ministry. One of the best ways pastors care for their flock is a strong sermon from the pulpit every week.

Part four of the book approaches the topic of equipping the people of God to do the work of God. Early focuses on the investment a pastor can make in the lives of a few men so they can go and do more work than one man can do. Additionally, these faithful men can go and invest in more men to do more of God's work. This is obviously a model based on 2 Timothy 2:2, which is near and dear to my heart.

Early finishes the book with a very practical section on shepherding God's people. These 6 chapters deal with issues like how to resolve conflict in the church and how to council people all the way to how to do a wedding and funeral. These are filled with very practical helps for any pastor, but especially those new to the pastorate.

Overall, this was an excellent read and may be the most helpful Pastoral Leadership book I have read. Pastoral Leadership Is... is filled with verses providing biblical instruction, and Early has given many practical helps to make sure the theory is put into the practice of the lives of pastors. For example, at the end of the chapter entitled "Training Yourself for Godliness," the author provides a simple and straightforward way to make some personal growth goals, ranging from mental, to physical, to spiritual, and then a quick guide on making these personal growth goals into a plan. Personally, I have adopted this plan and have been working to implement this into my life. Each chapter in this book is like this: filled with biblical instruction and practical help.

As stated, I incorporated this book into my personal devotion time. After time of bible reading and prayer, I would read a chapter of this book, marking any significant information that would stir my mind that day. I found that I was looking forward to my quiet time not only to hear from God through His word, but also to spend time reading and thinking about pastoral leadership. I would recommend this book to ANY pastor. If you are looking for a gift for pastor appreciation month, this would be a nice gift to your pastor.

2t22 rating:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wait for It...

After a few posts of eclectic topics, I wanted to get back to posting about Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 2, we see the movement of Nehemiah from Babylon to Jerusalem, from servant to leader, and from consuming sadness to consuming vision.

The chapter begins with Nehemiah standing before the most powerful man in the world and being asked by this powerful leader for anything Nehemiah wanted. When asked what Nehemiah wanted, Nehemiah went to someone more powerful than any man - He went to the God of Heaven. God would lead him to ask the right thing from Artaxerxes. I am sure Nehemiah had many thing pop into his mind about what he wanted but he allowed his will to be bent to God's will concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem. After all, according to Nehemiah 1:10, they were God's people and He would be the one taking care of them.

Nehemiah requested to travel to Jerusalem and for material to rebuild. He was given these things, not because of who Nehemiah was, nor because the king was so generous. He received these things because God's hand was on him.

After getting to Jerusalem, the Lord laid a direction on Nehemiah's heart. Nehemiah did not immediately share this with everyone but inspected the work to be done so that he would understand what God was asking Him to do. Eventually, Nehemiah shares what God was doing in Susa, how God provided for the work, and what God was asking them to do. They all jumped on board - "Let us arise and do this good work" (Nehemiah 2:18).

Immediately, conflict and opposition arose. The enemies of God and His people began mocking them and attempting to discourage them from the work God had called them to do. Nehemiah assured the enemies of the success of God's people, not because of their resolve but because it was God's plan and he was sure it was God's plan.

A few lessons from this chapter stand out to me. First, when confronted with a very important decision, Nehemiah prayed. It should be noted that this was done out of habit. He did not pray because it was important decision and all important decisions were prayed on. His habit was to go to the Lord and so when this pivotal moment came, Nehemiah did what he did habitually. The result of his faithful prayer was that "the king granted" and "God strengthened" (Nehemiah 2:8 - See the HCSB).

Second, when God granted the request, there were two reactions. The king sent reinforcement even though they were not requested by Nehemiah. God gave more than requested through the king. God knew Nehemiah would need some back-up and gave generously. Additionally, the enemies of God and His people were greatly displeased. When God's people begin to move toward God's plans, and God grants the prayers of His people, the enemies of God and His people will begin to get irritated.

Finally, when the time was right, Nehemiah shared with the people what God had been stirring in his heart for a while. God began a moving in Nehemiah's heart back in Susa. Then Nehemiah gave his request. Then all the supplies had to be gathered for his trip. Then he traveled to Jerusalem. Then, after being there for three days, he inspected the scope of the work. It was only after all of that that Nehemiah began to share the vision God had placed in His heart. It was only then that he had the full story of what God had done, what the king had said to him, and enormity of the task at hand so he could lead the people to participate in the "good work," which they were eager to do (Nehemiah 2:18).

We see in this passage the journey a leader takes when leading the people under his care in a direction God has put in that leader's heart. God has to be working in the heart of the leader, and God has to be working out the circumstances in order for the people to get to where God wants them. When the leader waits until he has the whole of what God wants him to communicate to the people, it benefits the people and encourages them to participate in the plan of God.

Verse to remember: Nehemiah 2:18 - I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king's words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, "Let us arise and build." So they put their hands to the good work.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Unique Trains - Addendum

In the previous post, I have pictures of some unique trains. My friend, Brian, who works for the railroad, informed me that I was close on my guesses of what these strange machines actually do. However, I was not exactly correct and he guided me to understand each piece. I wanted to share that information for my memory and for anyone else interested.

I guessed the first engine, which was unusually long, cleaned the rocks that lay in between the rails. This is, in fact, what that machine does. It picks up the rocks, cleans them, and then returns them back down on the track (it is this last part I was not sure of). Because of the coal dust or other grime that may make the track less effective, they clean the rocks.

I speculated that the second device was a tamping tool, since that was written in large letters on its side. I said I thought it straightened the ties or made sure the ties were secure. This part was wrong. Brian indicated that this device picks up the rail, shoves the rocks under the rail, and then make sure the rail is level. That impressed me! I wished I had gotten a better video of that process.

Finally, the last car did what I deduced it did. It moves the rocks all back into place so that the rail is secure and the rocks are not scattered everywhere.

Again, I am not a train enthusiast, but maybe someone reading this is and did not know about these type of trains. I hope this has been educational. I know it is not all that spiritual, but it is at least fun!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another Funeral, Another Road Trip, and Unique Trains

I attended another funeral today in Sterling. Since the lady who passed was the wife of a fellow pastor in my Association, I went to support him. Sterling is only about an hour from my house, so it was nothing close to my 970 mile trip in my previous post. However, whenever I go on some sort of road trip, I have been trying to take my camera because I always see something I want to remember or something unique. This road trip did not disappoint.

When I got close to home, I saw some very unique equipment running along the railroad route which runs through Wiggins. I am not exactly sure what they are but I can guess on a couple. If you know what these are, please post so we all can be educated.

First on the track, I saw this contraption. It was so long, I had to take it with a panoramic setting (with all the following, click image for larger picture).

Ok. So this fascinates me. My guess, in the context of the following pictures of vehicles, this digs up the rocks found between the tracks so it will expose the ties. It looks like these rocks are maybe shuttled up a conveyer and then through another conveyer to a container? I am not sure. Maybe the rocks are getting cleaned and the residue is going to the container? I have absolutely no clue but I am putting my money on that this may be a machine to remove the rocks from the between the rails. This is due to the next piece of equipment.
The key to this piece is the orange apparatus located on the front end. This is obviously a Dynamic Tamping Express. I know this because...
it says it right on the side of the machine. It is my guess that this interesting looking engine straightens out the ties and make sure they are securely in place. Perhaps it just beats the nails, or whatever holds the ties in place, so they are secure. I liked watching this process. Here is a video.
This looks like some sort of sci-fi, robot, construction device or something. I love the way it moves. Finally, following these two distinctive pieces of machinery was a final mystery.
 To me, this mechanism looks like it takes the rocks and moves them back on to the ties. I have a video of this process as well.
 I have no idea what these are (Brian, if by any chance you read my blog, let me know what these are!) and I guess that is what interested me in these. I am not a train enthusiast, per se, but trains are an integral part of our country's economy. It seems like these strange looking pieces of technology help those trains keep running. Or not...I have no idea.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Funeral, Swink, and a Sleeping Indian

I recently took a 970 mile road trip which covered three corners of Colorado. I left on a Friday morning to go to La Junta to attend the funeral of my friend's father. I did not know him but I wanted to support my friend. His father was a church planter, a pastor, and essentially a missionary in Eastern Colorado. It was encouraging to hear everyone speak of how he led through prayer, raised up leaders, and served the Lord all his life.

Because the next day I needed to be in Creede, I did not go home but instead went to my in-laws in Colorado Springs. So, on my way home, I went through Swink (click image for larger picture). I took a picture of the town's water tower with my phone on the fly so it is not the best picture but OK. When I was in La Junta, I stopped at the local Wal-Mart and picked up a Swink Lions shirt (click here for my post about high school mascots). I also stopped in Rocky Ford and picked up Meloneer shirts for my wife, my daughter, and myself. It was good to drive through some of these small towns I have not really heard of before.

Saturday, I headed out for Creede, as I was to preach there on Sunday morning. It is about 4 hours from Colorado Springs but I was going to take my time. It was a beautiful trip. If you have not been to the Southwestern part of Colorado, I would encourage you to take some time and visit.

The church had me stay with a very nice couple. They had a lovely cabin (click image for larger picture). They had a fantastic view from their front porch. The husband pointed to a formation of mountains and said, "They call that 'The Sleeping Indian'. Can you see it?" I indeed could see why they called it that. Here is a picture of that formation (click image for larger picture).

I preached Sunday morning for a great group of folks from all over the country. They all come and spend the summer in Creede and then go home for the winter. It was a good group of folks. They were very receptive to the message and were very gracious and hospitable. I also preached Sunday evening for them. There was a good group who came back for Sunday Evening worship, which I thought was impressive. Here is the church building (click image for larger picture).

After church the husband drove me around the area for a little bit. He showed me some of the sites and gave me some great history of the area. He was quite the historian and knew the place very well. The leaves were not quite their brilliant color they would normally be this time of year, but they were still an amazing display of God's creativity. Here are a couple of pictures of the landscape (click images for larger pictures).

I believe this is the San Luis Valley. The river is the Rio Grande, whose head waters are close to Creed. It flows from here all the way down to form the border between Mexico and Texas. This was such an expansive view, showing the river and the valley, the hills and the mountains, I had to stop and take a shot.

I took this shot down one of the roads we were traveling. I am pretty sure the mountain is Bristol Head Mountain. I liked this picture of the road, the trees and the mountain in the back ground.

I traveled back to Colorado Springs that Sunday evening, and the back home the following day. All in all, I drove 970 miles in 4 days to 3 corners of this beautiful state I live in. I had the privilege of attending the funeral of a fine man of God, and was able not only able to enjoy some very scenic views, but was able to proclaim the Word of the One who created all of this and allows us to enjoy it. It was a good weekend!