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The Absence of Prayer

By Jamin Goggin

The following is an adjusted excerpt from Beloved Dust (Thomas Nelson 2014).

I faced a circle of blank stares. It was a standoff, and I was willing to wait. As a youth pastor, I had grown accustomed to this response from my students. I had asked a simple question: “Would anyone be willing to pray?” But as any youth pastor can tell you, it is not that simple. You would think I had asked the group of teenage boys if they had viewed pornography recently. Eventually, the same student that always broke the awkward silence prayed, if for no other reason than to alleviate the anxiety of his peers.

As a youth pastor, I encountered many difficult and disheartening moments, such as finding out a student lived a completely different lifestyle than I had known. However, as my tenure in youth ministry grew, those moments of cold sweat from my students became the saddest. The sadness only increased when I discovered that prayer was missing from their lives completely. My students simply had…

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Vanderbloemen Bird NextSuccession has been a hot topic in many church leadership circles lately.

William Vanderbloemen, former pastor and President/CEO of executive search firm Vanderbloemen Search Group just wrote a book on the subject called Next: Pastoral Succession That Works, which is a church leader’s comprehensive guidebook to understanding what you can do now to prepare for the day your church faces a leadership transition.

Brandon: What is the overall big picture of Next?

William: It really comes down to one sentence: Every pastor is an interim pastor.

Why? Because unless you plan on pastoring your church after Jesus returns, every church will have to face the reality of a leadership transition. Are you ready? Most people aren’t. Many church leaders equate succession planning to retirement planning. However, smart church leaders realize that succession planning is much more than that. We hope that this book will be a conversation starter and a guide for pastors and church boards as they look to the inevitable reality of transition.

Brandon: In Next, you mention the old adage, “Everyone wants to talk about succession…until it’s their own.” Why do you think many pastors feel that way?

William: What…

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Be the Message“I’m sick of sermons” are the first words in Pastors Kerry and Chris Shook’s new book launching today, Be the Message:  Taking Your Faith Beyond Words to a Life of Action (Foreword by Rick Warren, WaterBrook Press, September 9, 2014) as well as Be the Message Church-wide Challenge on Sunday, November 16.  Never ones to shy away from honesty and truth, Kerry and Chris go on to say, “Don’t get me wrong.  I love the call that God has placed on my life, and I love teaching His life-changing word.  I still believe there is deep value in all that.  But, increasingly, I’m feeling I talk so much about God that I sometimes fail to really experience Him.  I want to talk about God less and walk with Him more.  I want to hear about God less and experience Him more.”  In this interview, just as in their books, Kerry and Chris have chosen to speak as one.

First, since it’s coming up soon, what is the Be the Message Church-wide Challenge, and how can pastors get involved?

On November 16th we’re signing churches up now from…

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Forgive UsAs American culture has become less deferential, not to mention at times more hostile, to traditional Christianity, a variety of theories as to what has gone wrong and how it should be fixed have been set forth. The four authors of “Forgive Us” – Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson, and Soong-Chan Rah — suggest that the anger that many have for the American church is justified. In that vein, they have penned this work as an expression of repentance, asking both God and people to forgive the church for various sins.

While such a call to repentance and confession is not entirely unusual, their particular vantage point may be to many readers, as “Forgive Us” expresses repentance from the perspective of the evangelical left. Over the last several decades, those of evangelical faith who hold more liberal political views have been frustrated by the dominance of the religious right in public awareness of evangelical political engagement. Recent years have brought more awareness to the fact that some evangelicals hold liberal political views and tend to engage the culture in more collectivist terms, with a greater…

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SimplifyThe path to simplicity is not for the faint of heart. It’s a process that requires total honesty. So let me pose the question: How depleted are you? How long has it been since you have felt fully replenished?

Jesus told Martha that her only hope was to pull up a chair, unplug from all the busyness, and begin a conversation with the only one who could restore her frenetic heart, settle her spirit, and get her heading back to true north. Is the same true for you?

Allow me to ask a follow-up question: Would an honest conversation with Jesus, in an unrushed setting, help you, too?

Of all the leaders I’ve had the opportunity to meet—from CEOs to nonprofit execs to politicians to church leaders—guess which type is most likely to have a problem with being overwhelmed, overscheduled, and exhausted?

Senior pastors! Card-carrying, seminary-graduated women and men of the cloth. Exhaustion runs rampant among pastors. This subject comes up in every city, every country, every culture, and every language group in which I’ve had the privilege of doing some mentoring and training. It’s a universal theme.

Here’s what I often do with my…

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Purple FishPurple Fish: A Heart for Sharing Jesus, by Mark O. Wilson was released last month by Wesleyan Publishing House and is receiving rave reviews from early readers who can’t put it down.

In this inspiring, practical book, Mark O. Wilson uses fishing and treasure hunting as metaphors, offering a fresh, new approach for sharing Christ with others, especially for those who feel inadequate and intimidated by witnessing. Purple Fish shows how it can be a delightful adventure of faith, filling your own soul in the process.

Through amazing and often humorous stories as well as many practical suggestions Wilson encourages the reader to rethink what it means to bring lost people to Jesus.”They are lost treasures,” says Wilson, “not lost causes.”   It will leave readers saying, I haven’t thought of it that way before. I can do that!

Leonard Sweet, best-selling author and theologian recently remarked, “Every now and then a book appears out of nowhere and is destined to be a classic — or should be. Mark O. Wilson’s “Purple Fish” is best bought by the box and distributed to every church. It is the most exciting, fun and accessible book…

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Book by BookThose readers who have attended Bible college or seminary will likely have used a New Testament or Old Testament introduction. Such books provide a survey of each book of the Bible, considering questions of date, authorship, occasion for writing, an outline and overview of the contents, and so forth. Such works, which are frequently academic in nature, typically give significant space to technical matters related to critical theories regarding date and authorship.

Except for that last item, How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart is very similar to those types of works, but the fact that it doesn’t spend time discussing academically oriented technical issues makes it extremely useful for both lay readers and pastors. Please don’t misunderstand: all evangelical pastors should know about and be able to defend scriptural authority in light of critical theories. As such, this book should not be the only reference work consulted by Bible readers and teachers. However, for many, this may be the first that would be consulted. By not focusing on critical theories, Fee and Stuart have provided a concise, readable volume that provides…

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Life on MissionMost of us who know and follow Jesus want to tell others about him, to share our faith. We want to live life on mission, obeying Jesus’ final command to us: “go into all the world and make disciples.”

But when it comes to actually engaging in evangelism, we hesitate. We get intimidated, uncertain, or even confused. Sharing our faith should be natural, easy—but it isn’t always.

Until now. Life on Mission offers clear Bible teaching and provocative discussion questions designed to empower small groups to share their faith with people right in their own neighborhood. This six-week study looks at topics like how to connect with unbelievers, how serving others can open their hearts to the gospel, and how paying attention to our own spiritual growth can strengthen our witness.

People who really matter to God are right around you, and God has given you the incredible assignment of inviting them to come home. Life on Mission will inspire and equip you to do that.

Starter kit includes:

  • Life on Mission book: This hardcover book lays the foundation for the Life on Mission principals. An essential part of the campaign to help…

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Toughest People to LoveAll pastors know what it means to struggle with difficult people in their churches, and almost all would welcome guidance regarding how to deal with and counsel those types of persons. In “Toughest People to Love: how to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in your Life,” Chuck DeGroat, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Western Theological Seminary, attempts to provide such help.

The book is divided neatly into three parts. In Part 1 (Understanding People), DeGroat urges his readers to seek to understand and love members of their communities who engage in maddening and sometimes self-destructive behaviors. In emphases that he maintains throughout the book, he argues that this requires both 1) an understanding of the basis of these behaviors and attitudes in others and 2) a better apprehension of one’s own brokenness as a leader. In arguing for a vision of brokenness as leaders, he makes frequent reference to current books on leadership written primarily for business leaders, arguing that they have captured an emphasis on transparent leadership that church leaders need.

Part 2 (Leading and Loving Difficult People) focuses on specified psychological…

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You and Me ForeverMarriage is great, but it’s not forever. It’s until death do us part. Then come eternal rewards or regrets depending on how we spent our lives.

In his latest book, Francis Chan and his wife Lisa address the question that many couples wonder at the altar: “How do I have a great marriage?” Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.

In the same way Crazy Love changed the way we saw our personal relationship with God, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity will radically shift the way we see one of the most important relationships in our life.

Jesus was right. We have it all backwards. The way to have a great marriage is by not focusing on marriage.

Whether you are single, dating or married, You and Me Forever will help you discover the adventure that you were made for ­­and learn how to thrive in it.

100% of the net proceeds from You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity will go towards various ministries that…

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How to Read the Bible for All Its WorthEvangelical Christians understand the Bible to be the Word of God, and the majority of them believe that they ought to be reading it. Those that do so all too frequently find themselves frustrated. They encounter a very old book with varied types of literature written over a period of almost 1,500 years and dealing with matters that seem very different from the world in which we live.

Given these difficulties, it is no wonder that some people over time have come up with bizarre interpretations of the Bible that badly misunderstand the meaning of the text. Others just give up home Bible reading and rely on the expertise of the pastor.

Newly updated in its fourth edition, and with nearly a million copies previously sold, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth provides a helpful guide for Bible study. The new edition updates material related to Bible translations, makes recommendations based on recently published commentaries, as well as making other appropriate revisions.

Opening chapters of the book provide a brief but helpful overview regarding textual criticism, which deals with the…

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Master Plan RevisitedDr. Robert Coleman set the standard for discipleship and evangelism in the 20th century when he wrote the watershed book The Master Plan of Evangelism over 50 years ago. Since then, Coleman’s work has sold more than 3.5 million copies and has been translated into 100-plus languages. In this new eBook, Bobby Harrington, director of, joins Coleman to revisit the timeless material of the book.

The two friends and co-authors believe that Jesus’ method incorporated all the divine wisdom, knowledge and insight included in Jesus’ identity. And in this resource, they point out the ways in which Jesus’ method is the perfect method. Throughout Harrington’s interview with Coleman, we get a front-row seat to listen in on the conversation as Harrington talks with him to review and update the eight (now nine) principles of Jesus’ method. What emerges are the wisdom and insights of a man who has spent his life pursuing Jesus and His method and teaching others to do the same. Their exchange will feed readers’ souls. Some 50 years after Coleman wrote the book, he says he believes these timeless and transcultural principles of Jesus’…

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