How our church prays together (A step-by-step guide for holding a corporate prayer gathering)

One of the things our church has done, since the very beginning, is carve out one night a month for corporate prayer and song. We call it our monthly prayer night. It's not original, but we're not trying to be original. Our goal is to come before our Father in heaven, together, to ask Him to do above and beyond all we ask, think or imagine (Eph 3:20). I've received a lot of questions about these nights from other pastors. What do they look like? Who leads? How many people turn out? What happens? Why do you do them? If you have any of these questions this is for you. I asked many of the same questions when we were starting out. I was particularly helped by Dave Lomas of Reality | San Francisco. I'm not an expert, but we have learned some things over the last four years that you may find helpful. 

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The Urgency of a Pastor's Self-Watch

This morning we kicked-off a new two-year residency for developing eight potential pastors and church planters within our church. Our hope is to raise-up local elders, church planters and leaders for planting teams - domestically and internationally. We're beginning with a study of Charles Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students as a launch pad for discussing personal spiritual vitality. This week we covered "The Minister's Self-Watch", "The Call to Ministry", "The Preacher's Private Prayer" and "The Minister's Ordinary Conversation." Whether you are currently serving as a pastor, or working through a call to it, you should read this book - and then revisit it regularly. If you want to learn more about rolling out something similar at your church, I encourage you to connect with these guys. Here's a sample of Spurgeon's urgent call to a diligent self-watch.

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If you're involved in ministry (in any form) you should read this

I'm currently in the middle of two weeks of vacation. One of my goals during this time is to revisit a number of books which have impacted me most (so far) this year. One of those is Sensing Jesus, by Zack Eswine. Before reading this book, I had never heard of Zack and, to be honest, would have judged this book by its cover. However, if I had, I would have missed a treasure trove of gospel-laden wisdom for modern-day pastors ministering in a culture of consumerism and celebrity. If you're involved in ministry (particularly in the US), you should read this. In my mind, this book should be read alongside Dangerous Calling, by Paul Tripp. I have lost track of how many times I have recommended it since I first read it. Here are a handful of my favorite quotes...

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Six suggestions on how to navigate doubt

I recently wrote a piece, "Six suggestions on how to navigate doubt", for Downtown Cornerstone. Doubt is something I personally encounter, from time to time, and frequently deal with as a pastor of a growing church. Doubt shouldn't be something we ignore, but face directly. But, how do we do that? I wrote this short post to help give a starting point for navigating doubt. Here's an excerpt: 

No matter what you believe, if you’re thoughtful and honest, you will face some measure of doubt. Is what I believe true? Can we know what is true? Do I believe what I do because it is true or for other reasons (personal experiences, moral preferences, particular environment, etc)? Have I reasonably considered the other options?

I was recently asked by a friend, who is in the thick of considering the claims of Jesus Christ, “How do followers of Jesus manage doubt? How do you not let doubt swallow you up completely?” Those are good questions, no matter what you believe.  

 In this post, I’d like to specifically deal with doubt within the context of Christianity. Following Jesus is not an isolated hobby for personal enrichment nor for those merely looking to have their spiritual needs met. Rather, Christianity claims to be the truth of the universe and, if true – and I believe it is – that changes everything. As CS Lewis once said: "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."


"If I feel called to local church leadership, but know I am not ready, what should I do in the meantime?"

Our church is currently working its way through First Timothy. One of the major topics the Apostle Paul addresses is leadership, particularly qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-13). One of the questions I get from time to time is, "If I feel called to local church leadership, but know that I am not ready, what should I do in the meantime?" Over time I have put the following thoughts together. While I have potential pastors and deacons in view, as that is what the text addresses, clearly these could apply to any form of leadership at home and/or at the office. Wherever you may land, I have the following eight suggestions...

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Zack Eswine on surrendering to noble limits

To relinquish; to admit that some dreams are presumptuous; to acknowledge that some needs outlast me; to recognize my inability to fully supply what is lacking; to admit that I am limited; to say no to competition with brothers and sisters, and to give to others what I strongly desired for myself; and in it all to still take up the pen or give voice to preach Jesus—these indicate a surrender to noble limits.
— Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being

Terry Virgo on charismatic leadership as God's gift to the church to retain his rule

Charismatic leadership is God’s gift to the church. He chooses whom He anoints with gifts of leadership so He retains His rule. When God anoints someone, His anointing becomes apparent to all. The spiritual gifting that is demonstrated as a result of the anointing gives public profile to the individual concerned. Often gifting in preaching or communicating the word begins to demonstrate God’s hand upon a man. This gives him a sphere of influence, and people begin to realize that they hear God through this man – he seems to bring God nearer to them. If his character and leadership skills match this public skill in the word of God, people begin to gather to him for spiritual leadership. This is a spiritual development, not an institutional one. As his vision, leadership skills and ability to communicate bear fruit in lives, people become joined to him like people did to David. They begin to speak as those who said to David: “We are yours, O David.”
— Terry Virgo, The Spirit Filled Church

The Apostle Paul and the heart of church planting (and pastoring)

have lost track of how many church planting books I have read. I have attended conferences. I have read blogs. I have listened to sermons, workshops and seminars. I have talked to seasoned planters and pastors. I have done my homework. As a novice church planter I was told to focus on: converts, leadership development, missional communities, connecting with city leaders, contextualization, strategic planning, social networking, engaging preaching, membership development, and contemporary worship. Those are all good, even needed. I agree with (most of) them. Yet, in focusing on so many things, it is easy to lose focus on the main thing. 

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Satan's favorite box at the Seattle library

This past summer as I was preparing for our church's covenant membership series I dropped by the Seattle Central Library, located in downtown Seattle, to do some research on the history of Jesus' people in Seattle. What I found shocked me. On the bottom shelf of an isolated rack, located in a quiet corner of the Seattle Room on the top floor, I found a box. It was largely unmarked. I don't know why I decided to open it, but I did. The condition of the box made it evident that it hadn't been opened in some time. The box, about the size of a small shoe box, was packed with hundreds of 3x5 cards.

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William Still on pastors as men of the Word

It is to feed sheep on…truth that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organization, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness. Do we really believe that the Word of God, by his Spirit, changes, as well as maddens men? If we do, to be evangelists and pastors, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the Word of God.
— William Still, Work of the Pastor