Saturday, May 30, 2009

No balance

One of the leaders of Youth Specialties, a large resource for youth ministry in the Christian church, recently announced that he was cutting out Facebook, Twitter, and blogging because of a re-evaluation of priorities in his life. Good for him.

Several of the comments he received pleaded with him to reconsider. At least one of them (I didn’t read them all) appealed to the goal of “balance” as the solution to continuing these activities. You don’t have to quit altogether, said he, but just scale back.

I have three responses to this:

seriously?!? This guy’s just announced that he has prayerfully considered how he uses his time, and he’s giving up three online time-sponges in order to spend more time on his ministry and with his family. You want him to reconsider because you’d miss reading his blog? (And this is from people who work in vocational ministry...) I don’t have any problem with any of those activities, but I both understand and respect when people thoughtfully decide to purge them from their lives.

Second-- there are dozens of online “social” tools available (and more daily, it seems), and all of them have some value and purpose. But two things stand out to me in this vein: first, if you can’t articulate a good reason (even if it is, “harmless fun”) for using any one of them, then you’re wasting your time. Second, if you’re using them just to “build your brand” then I think you ought to take a closer look at the Scriptures and consider whether “building your personal brand” has anything to do with discipleship.

Third-- and this is the main point: people talk to me often about “balance” in their lives. Some are folks I minister to, others are people I consult with (because I do some consulting in addition to pastoral ministry, and that sometimes includes consulting about “productivity”), and a unifying fact about all of them is that they have too much going on in their lives. The popular solution to this in today’s culture is to look for “balance.”

But as I read the Bible I see nothing whatsoever about balance. Sure, you could argue that the texts on stewardship apply to time as well-- and they do-- but that doesn’t amount to a Divine declaration in favor of balance. In fact, there really isn’t a warrant for balance even in the stewardship texts.

What I see in the Bible is this:
learn what are the priorities of the Kingdom, and utterly abandon everything that isn’t them.

If you’re looking for balance, here’s how you accomplish it in a biblical way: cut out some of the busyness that has little or no real value, and suddenly your life will feel balanced. Discern what God has created and called you to do and be, and stop trying to do or be more than this. Spend your time on what God declares to be important, and you won’t feel imbalanced.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spiritual Life Conference

We’ve just started actively promoting our Spiritual LIfe Conference for 2009. The dates will be October 23-25, and the topic is Prayer. Our speaker will be Jerram Barrs, professor of Covenant Seminary and Scholar in residence of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.

The conference will include several lectures from Jerram, a Question & Answer Luncheon with him on Saturday, and he will preach during morning worship on Sunday. There will also be a prayer service Saturday morning, and the sanctuary will be open for prayer all afternoon on Saturday.

One thing that our brochure DOESN’T say is that there will be a Pastors’ Luncheon on Friday, in addition to all of the other activities.

To learn more and to register, visit the website: And keep an eye on it, because there may be some additions yet to come in the plans and offerings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prayer 8: Praying for your pastor

Here’s a good piece from Ligon Duncan, a PCA pastor in Jackson, MS, on how to pray for your pastor. Duncan has put together a list of 17 specific ways you can pray for your pastor.

here’s another good one, this time from Thom Rainer (an author and church leader) on the same. Rainer doesn’t offer a list, but instead a testimony of how vital to ministry is a member (and a congregation) that prays for their pastor.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Books for April 2009

These are the books I read in April:
  • A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson. This book is a very helpful guide on prayer by a hero of our times. It looks at Paul’s letters and gleans what we might learn about how to pray in a more biblical manner-- something we all could benefit from. I love Carson’s style and biblical insight, and I always find his engagement with such practical material to be worth my time. This one took some time-- I soaked it up over about six weeks, putting it down for a bit to consider a chapter or so. It isn’t light reading; still, I highly recommend it. (10)
  • Why Johnny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon. Here’a an insightful little book that considers how our media-saturated culture has changed the likelihood of the average pastor being a decent or even acceptable preacher. Gordon offers a great analysis-- and what is even better, he offers a very good chapter on how to change it. Good stuff, and should probably be required reading for college and seminary students (the earlier the better). (8+/9)
  • 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osborne. This is a clever little book that considers 10 of what the author calls “spiritual urban legends.” I’ll be reviewing this one in more detail soon. (8)
  • Preaching on Your Feet by Fred R. Lybrand. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the methods described in this book were essentially the methods I’ve come to use week-by-week, with just a little bit of modification. This made the book less groundbreaking than confirming and refining for me, though it might be groundbreaking (and quite freeing) for many-- especially if you are the type of preacher who feels compelled to complete a full manuscript and try to preach from it. At times, he takes a bit too firm a stance of defense for his methodology, which I suppose is understandable, though it distracts from the important stuff (I’m already reading your book, Fred, so you don’t have to try to sell it to me again). (8+)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hank Hill on choosing churches

One of my favorite clips from King of the Hill, which happens to be a show that I think offers some of the most poignant cultural critique today:

Courtesy of

Friday, May 1, 2009

Swine Flu information

Every day I hear someone else mention Swine Flu, often in the form of questioning whether they should be worried.

The best way to deal with worry and anxiety is to be informed. (I know, that’s a sweeping statement that might be worth a blog post-- or a book-- down the line...) Where do you go to get information on Swine Flu?
  • Let’s start “at home”-- the PCA’s Disaster Relief division (a part of Mission to North America) has put together this helpful factsheet, available in PDF format. This two-page resource has links to other helpful pages (where you may obtain factual information, not just hearsay, hype, or hysteria), as well as brief advice for some things to think about.
  • Wikipedia is a very good place to go for information that has been updated about as frequently as possible. (Some people are skeptical about Wikipedia, but I’ve found it to be quite adept at self-policing.) If you don’t know what a “wiki” is, think of it as a user-edited website-- thus, Wikipedia is a user-edited encyclopedia. The Wikipedia page for the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak is a rich resource for up-to-date information.
  • Another wiki that might be even better than Wikipedia’s Swine Flu page is this one: Flu Wiki, which is a resource about ALL Flu strains, including Swine and Avian Flu. There is more there, and the participants seem to frequently be a part of the medical community (not to say that the ones on Wikipedia are not, but simply commenting on the Flu Wiki).
  • If you’re interested in following when new cases of Swine Flu are detected, this page has an ongoing report to that effect: Veratect, which is actually a Twitter feed that reports them.