4 P’s in Navigating Cultural Leadership: Parlance, People, Places, and Press

Posted by on Nov 22, 2014 in The Gospel and the Ministry

Exegetichism: What a great word! My friend just coined it in a recent conversation. We were talking about four p’s that exist within every insider church culture: parlance, people, places, and press.

As we talked about how he felt a little out of place not knowing all the parlance of the Church culture he has been navigating for a few years, he dropped that word, “exegetichism.” He lamented not knowing and understanding more words like that. How humorous!

He blended two technical words: exegete and catechism. Exegete is when you pull out the true meaning of something. Catechism is when you put into people understanding through the process of asking and answering questions; it’s a form of indoctrination.

Culture is goofy. And it is difficult for people to navigate culture. If leaders aren’t present to help a person navigate a new culture that person will slowly drift away from it. Though my friend was just saying that he doesn’t know or get words like “exegetichism”, he actually cleverly developed a word to describe our problem. There is often a great disconnect between what we pull out and communicate to others and what they actually absorb and understand. Part of this is because we either create noise or ignore the noise that exists and assume that people get or relate to our cultural parlance, people, places, and press.

We have to be careful educators who make no assumptions about our people’s experiences and familiarity with our church culture. Let’s look at each of these facets of our church culture briefly and seek help for using them in our culture well.

Parlance

Every culture has its language. This is part of what separates it from other cultures and make it distinct. Christian culture has an extremely technical, historical, and well-developed parlance. Unfortunately, as biblical illiteracy increases and emphasis on general education continues to shift towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies, people will fall out of touch with the parlance. They won’t know what “exegesis” or “catechism” is. They won’t be familiar with “prelapsarian”, “particular atonement”, and “regeneration”.

Furthermore, there is no end to developing new language or nuancing language in a church culture. For instance, the terms “mission” and “incarnation” are used much different from how they would have been 50 years ago. And as theological constructs develop, people are becoming familiar with new problems like “open theism”.

So how do we navigate our parlance? First, I suggest that every time you use a technical term, you should imagine that someone in the room will not know the term. Get used to explaining the term. Second, if the setting is appropriate, you might ask if anyone needs you to explain the term. If no one admits that they need to, give a second chance, and reassure people that you don’t expect them to really know all these terms. Third, create a place or direct people to helpful resources for further study. If your church does not have a blog or an online resource that has some of your parlance defined, then get cracking on making that resource available.

People

There are people that everyone looks to in your church culture. It could be a scholar or a pastor. Have you ever entered a new culture and everyone kept name dropping people you don’t know at all? Or what about when you navigate from one church environment to another and you discover that a name that was praised in your former environment is defamed in your new one? Let me tell you. That’s awkward. And quite honestly, it’s shameful. Church leaders should be intentionally magnanimous to avert these troubles.

If you wanna help your people understand THE people, be sure to explain a little bit about who you are referencing. Give your people context. Make resources available or create connections between the people you name drop and what they are about. Did they write a book? Make the book available. Are they known for a particular event, doctrine, viewpoint or ministry focus? Connect that person to those things for your people to grip the connection. And demonstrate greater charity towards the well-known people that you may not run to for counsel or leadership.

Places

Places are a big deal for people because memories and the past are often wrapped up in places. There is a sentimental and nostalgic relationship made with places. When I arrived in my first pastorate, I discovered that there were sacred cow places. Thus, I should not import my sacred cow places and supplant those other places at my new pastorate. Because of this, some of the camp and mission experiences that I cherished in past contexts would never be contenders in this new ministry context.

For adults it becomes conferences, colleges, and seminaries.

“Did you go to such-and-such? Oh you didn’t.” Awkward pause. And the two of you don’t know where to go from there.

Have you been there? I have.

Or how about this. The person responds with, “I would never be caught dead at such-and-such. Why would you go there?”

Or:

“Well, I went here instead.”

“Oh did you. Hmm.” And now you’ve been shoved into their neat little box.

Places are important. Educating people on the places of value and why they are valuable is critical. Then being super inclusive is also important. You want people to share the same experiences you had in that place. You want them to long to be there and go there. Magnanimity is also essential here.

We need to be charitable because people are not their places. People are in process and they develop. What they were connected to in the past is not always what they wish to be connected to in the future. That’s just the way it is some times. So we shouldn’t make too great of an assumption about a person just because of their past places.

Press

A lot of people do not keep up with the press and social media like you do. Leaders are always more in tune; they keep their ear to the ground about the buzz. For some people the press is super important. Others, don’t really care that much. There is this tension between not creating a culture too attached to the press and then being able to address what current event is taking your culture by storm when it is necessary. Many a church has been broken by events that came out in the press about a place or a person that they cherished.

We need to listen carefully to the buzz in our church. That will help us know how to navigate the press. Not only should a leader have his ears open, sometimes he needs to have his mouth shut about the press. Your people don’t have to get the news from you first every time. Let the press do its work. Be there to offer counsel and make statements in response as it becomes necessary. Sometimes leaders blow the press out of proportion and stir up trouble where none need be.

Conclusion

You want to help people learn your culture and navigate it successfully. This will help you retain more people than you realize.

Likewise, you also want to keep an eye towards a healthy gap between your church and these facets of culture. Parlance changes and evolves. Language you were attached to at one point you may distance from at another. People change. If your church becomes too attached to a figure, you might find yourself managing a disparaging and depressed culture because of some trauma or tragedy that befalls that person. Or it could be worse, and you know what I mean. The same goes for places and the power of the press.

Don’t fail at exegetichizing your people well by reducing noise and bringing clarity about your parlance, people, places, and press that influence your culture.

Here’s one last word: The more we keep the main thing the main thing, the better chance we have of not letting the above cultural facets influence our culture too much. Let the God of the gospel, the Word, and the work of ministry be the primary shapers of your community.

This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.

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Hope in His Word

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Bible, Featured

Hope in His Word

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

*****************

Psalm 119:4, “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.”

Whatever your special need may be, you may readily find some promise in the Bible suited to it.

Are you faint and feeble because your way is rough and you are weary? Here is the promise-”He giveth power to the faint.” When you read such a promise, take it back to the great Promiser, and ask Him to fulfill His own word.

Are you seeking after Christ, and thirsting for closer communion with Him? This promise shines like a star upon you-”Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Take that promise to the throne continually; do not plead anything else, but go to God over and over again with this-”Lord, Thou hast said it, do as Thou hast said.”

Are you distressed because of sin, and burdened with the heavy load of your iniquities? Listen to these words-”I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions, and will no more remember thy sins.” You have no merit of your own to plead why He should pardon you, but plead His written engagements and He will perform them.

Are you afraid lest you should not be able to hold on to the end, lest, after having thought yourself a child of God, you should prove a castaway? If that is your state, take this word of grace to the throne and plead it: “The mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed, but the covenant of My love shall not depart from thee.”

If you have lost the sweet sense of the Saviour’s presence, and are seeking Him with a sorrowful heart, remember the promises: “Return unto Me, and I will return unto you;” “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.”

Banquet your faith upon God’s own word, and whatever your fears or wants, repair to the Bank of Faith with your Father’s note of hand, saying with the Psalmist, “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.”

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Parenting Against the Tide: A Handbook for 21st Century Parenting

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Parenting Against the Tide: A Handbook for 21st Century Parenting

As a relatively new parent of an adopted 13 year old, I definitely will raise both hands if asked whether parenting is a rough and tumble task. The responsibility of raising a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord in a society that at every turn seeks to undermine godly parenting principles makes the task all that more difficult. We live in an age where words like discipline are viewed with disdain in favor of a relative free for all approach with child rearing. Whatever makes them happy regardless of future consequences not just for them as productive adults but for society at large let alone the families they will someday lead is quite frankly a passing fancy in the minds of most. Ann Benton, author of numerous books on parenting and the family, has provided an excellent tool with her latest book Parenting Against the Tide: A Handbook for 21st Century Parenting.

The focus of Benton’s book is to address the commonly promulgated and utilized parenting myths in vogue today such as an over-emphasis on self-esteem, the confusion of gender roles, the rejection of biblical discipline, relativism, lack of communication skills within the family, poor spending habits, and the setting of life goals,to name only a few subjects she addresses. She aptly notes the reason she wrote this book was to help Christian parents recognize that the “majority of modern parenting advice, however nice and cozy it sounds, is rooted in a worldview that is quite foreign to the Bible and this very much affects the kind of advice that is given.” Given that the Bible is quite clear on matters related to parenting, it is refreshing to read a book such as Benton’s that wades through the clatter and focuses on sound biblical truths on child rearing and matters related to the family.

For example, one of my favorite parts of this book was Benton’s discussion of the postmodern penchant for relativism which flies in the face of the absolute truth claims made in Scripture. Many in society like to make the claim that Christian parents are indoctrinating their children. A perfect example of this position is in relation to the creation/evolution debate. Evolution proponents such as Bill Nye and Richard Dawkins have often averred that teaching children creation is akin to indoctrination and child abuse. Benton does a marvelous job of demonstrating the vast difference between indoctrination and teaching noting “when it comes to passing on the baton of truth to our children…we know at once that we are not in the business of forcing a mantra on our children or of making assumptions about them. We will teach them; we will engage their developing minds.” She then outlines what that looks like in real everyday practice with the powerfully practical passage of Deuteronomy 6 as a backdrop for that discussion; a passage that is pregnant with sound biblical guidance on what teaching children from a biblical framework is all about.

Another excellent aspect of this book is Benton’s discussion of right and wrong. She correctly states that “unless a parent is willing to meet the right and wrong question head on, and be clear and convinced about the answer he/she will find raising children very hard work indeed.” Children love to ask the question why when told by their parents to do or not do something. A wishy-washy response if one is even given to such a question results in a child not understanding matters of right or wrong or where the foundation for right and wrong behavior is derived. Responding to the common parenting myths of naturalism, happiness, and consensus, Benton provides the biblical structure for properly defining issues of morality to include God as the ultimate law-giver, understanding humanity being made in God’s image, noting the impact of the fall, properly grasping the job description of the parent, and noting the proper balance between law and grace. These points will help the parent have a defined and consistent biblical worldview which Benton saliently declares “will enable you to maintain a moral framework in disciple” as well as avoiding the “need to resort to bribery which is a mere arbitrary and quite cynical manipulation of variables to get the desired end-product.”

Finally, I truly appreciated the practical application section at the conclusion of each chapter. It is one thing to provide a barrage of helpful principles and quite another to help the reader apply those biblical principles where the rubber meets the proverbial road which is in this case the daily grind of parenting. Benton does the latter by giving the reader some valuable questions for further thought and consideration based on the concepts and discussion found in that particular chapter. These are questions parents can sit down and discuss amongst themselves that will certainly provide an opportunity for an honest and hopefully frank analysis of how they have been approaching parenting their child or children.

I highly recommend this book for all parents. Benton’s honest and engaging writing style notes the failures of modern societies parenting methodology while presenting a clear and biblically sound response that will serve parents well that take the time and effort to read and apply the truths and concepts found in this timely and excellent book. I know my wife and I will be utilizing what we have read in the parenting of our teenage daughter.

This book is available for purchase from EP Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from EP Books for this review. 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.”

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Why Good Reviews Matter

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Featured, Writing Book Reviews

Why Good Reviews Matter

Introduction

We live in an age when it’s becoming easier than ever to share our thoughts regarding products and services. With this ability, however, comes a great responsibility—our thoughts need to be thoughtful and truthful. Over the past five years I’ve had the opportunity to read and review books from every major Christian publisher. My wife often comments, “I’m so glad you get all these books for free to read.” Even before I started reviewing, I was reading a lot of books every year. A good review not only looks at the contents of the book, but also analyzes it with a goal of providing thoughtful reasons why the book accomplishes or doesn’t accomplish its intended purpose. It is important to note that this article is not meant to be a full-scope breakdown of the format for a “good review”, but hopefully the information presented here will inspire others to take care in future book-reviewing endeavors.

The Nuts and Bolts of Writing Reviews

When writing a review, I typically start with an introduction of the topic the book discuses. This can be done in as few as two to three sentences, and should conclude with the title of the book, the author’s name, and the main theme of the book. After introducing the book and the topic, I move on to providing a summary of the contents. Depending on where the review will be published, this can be as few as two to three sentences or as much as three to four paragraphs. From this point in the review, I usually take one to four paragraphs analyzing the book. It is within the analysis of the book that I share which parts I agreed with and where I disagreed with the book. Finally, I conclude the book review with why (or why not) I would recommend the book to others. If it is a book I would recommend, I will also include a target audience that I believe it would best benefit. If I am unable to recommend the book, I note why and try to suggest a few other resources on the same or similar topics.

My process, as outlined above, is not necessarily the one that is appropriate for every book-reviewer. Each reviewer’s process may be different, however the principles of my method are helpful regardless of how you write your reviews. I encourage you to think over your own process in light of what I’ve shared to perhaps improve your method, while maintaining your own writing voice and style.

Good Book Reviews Are a Blessing to the Church

Good reviews are a blessing to the Church (both inside and outside the local gathering). A good book review will not only help people interested in determining if they should buy the book, it will also help Christians to be discerning; something that should define the Christian life. Good reviews help Christians be discerning by allowing them to see which books are worth their time and which ones they should avoid. For example, when writing a critical book-review, try to not only state what you disagreed with (and why), but also state what you liked or found helpful about the book. This helps the reader see the value in the book, despite your areas of disagreement with the author.

You’ve written your review now—great! Now be sure you carefully proof-read your review. There’s nothing more embarrassing than realizing that your critical feedback of someone else’s work contains spelling and grammar issues. Not to mention that it also lowers your credibility as a book-reviewer if you don’t bother correcting your own mistakes. After you’ve hit Publish, don’t be afraid to share your review with your friends and followers on social media. Be creative with how you share your reviews, I’ve found that people appreciate thoughtful and creative updates. Use of eye-catching graphics (possibly of the book’s cover) can be used to draw attention as well; remember—you are writing this as a public service, and people should be made aware of it.

Writing good reviews that are thoughtful, without being “nit-picky”, is hard work. As with writing anything worthwhile, write your review with the author’s purpose in mind. Ask yourself, “Would the author of this book consider my review to be in alignment with his/her intent?” If the answer is no, I would encourage you to rethink how you’ll proceed in writing this review.

Book reviewing can be a difficult process, which often requires slowly working through the material in the book, and thoughtfully considering what you’ve read. Good reviews will include an introduction, summary of the book, an analysis of the book—either positive or negative, and a conclusion with a recommendation or non-recommendation of the book.

A Final Thought

Good reviews matter; they matter because we live in a world where people are searching for thoughtful feedback on products and services. As our society is becoming increasingly more connected, it will become ever more important to provide thoughtful and helpful reviews of product and services (including books). I encourage you to write good, thoughtful, and helpful reviews. People will not only appreciate what you’ve shared, they will pass it on, and perhaps even look for additional reviews from you in the future. It is my hope that you have found this article helpful and that others may benefit from the gift of your next “good review”.

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#3: John the Baptist: A Witness to the Light [Sermon]

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Featured, The Gospel of John

#3: John the Baptist: A Witness to the Light [Sermon]

Join Dave as he continues the study on the Gospel of John by looking at John 1:6-9 with the men at his local church. In this study Dave looks at John’s eight uses of the word witness in the Gospel of John and the features of being a faithful witness.

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Hope Reborn: How To Become A Christian And Live for Jesus by Warnock & Koleoso

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Christian Living, Featured

Hope Reborn: How To Become A Christian And Live for Jesus by Warnock & Koleoso

For a long time I have wished there was a book that took the best of what the best gospel tracts had to offer and combined it with some solid post-conversion advice for new believers that was church centered and very accessible. When it comes to presenting the gospel, the meaning of Christianity and the basics of the Christian life simplicity is the key with unbelievers and new believers. While tracts are designed to be simple, their size can often cause them to be incomplete.

Adrian Warnock and Tope Koleoso have written that book with Hope Reborn: How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus. Both men serve at Jubilee Church in London which is a growing church that preaches and lives the gospel in their community.

There are three  things that make this book shine. First, the book is gospel centered. I do not say this to drop a cliche – the book gets the gospel right. They have a Biblical understanding of the plight of mankind – dead, lost and alienated from God in their sins –  and the resulting need for Christ as the only One who can save sinners. In the first chapter they use the story in Luke 7:36-40 about the prostitute who washed Jesus’ feet with ointment and Simon the Pharisee to show the two kinds of unbelievers in the world in need of Christ: the unrighteous as characterized by the prostitute and the self-righteous as characterized by Simon the Pharisee. Since neither can save themselves, because they are both sinners, we need a righteous Person – Christ. What makes the gospel possible is that Christ the righteous died and was raised for sinners (chapter two). What is necessary for a person to do is respond to the message of the gospel with a confession repentance and belief in Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf (chapter three).

Second, the book is church centered. Instead of ending at a profession of faith, the book continues onto the next steps a believer needs to take as a new disciple of Jesus Christ. These next steps rightly begin with baptism as a means of obedience and public identification with the one who saved you – Christ –  and joining a local church. The authors place a high value on church membership and involvement as obedience to Scripture and a necessary part of the Christian life.

Third, the book is Christian life centered. In addition to baptism and local church involvement, the authors offer some solid biblical advice about starting the Christian life. They have three areas of immediate growth: seeing change in your life in response to the changes the gospel calls for in your life, Bible reading and prayer. Chapter five deals with change in the believers life. The rational for change is that if the gospel message of salvation is real then it will really change your life. Similarly, if you really believe its message is true then you will want to live in conformity to its freeing message. Chapters six and seven close the book with some simple and practical guidelines for reading your Bible and praying.

I love everything about Hope Reborn. This is like a great gospel tracts on steroids. This book would be great to walk a searching friend or co-worker through, great to use as a guide for a new believer looking to take the next step in their new faith and great as a training tool for teaching others about how to share the gospel. You should have copies of this in your house and churches should have stacks of these to give out.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus Publications for this review. 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.”

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