Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stick Church blog tour

Cover of "Sticky Church (Leadership Netwo...Cover via Amazon

The invitation to join the Sticky Church blog tour has left me feeling a bit like David standing among much taller older brothers. My thanks to Sam(uel) for the opportunity to participate.

My copy of Larry Osborne's Sticky Church contains margin notes and underlines on almost every page, and Chapter 16: Finding and Developing Leaders is no exception. Although the emphasis of this book is on small group leadership, it is clear that a number of principles carry over into other areas of ministry leadership as well. As Osborne says, "Tell me the quality of your leadership, and I'll tell you the quality of your ministry, program, or small group" (p. 123).

One of the greatest challenges to finding and developing quality leaders is that too often the pool is so underpopulated. So what do we do? Do we take the first willing heart even if that person lacks the desired qualifications? Maybe it is better to seek out leaders with years of experience even if it means sacrificing relational connection. I wonder if the Campus Crusade staff at Ohio University were asking the same questions about me the summer before my sophomore year of college.

The first small group I ever led was in the freshman dorm I had lived in the previous year. Experience? Zero. Bible knowledge? Sketchy. Intimidation? Off the charts. But a had a real, growing relationship with Jesus Christ, what I think Osborne means by "spiritual warmth" (p. 124). That and a desire to show a group of freshman guys some of the things I had discovered only a year prior from God's Word shaped my early leadership career.

Should I have been asked at the time to pastor a church? Absolutely not. But in terms of leading a small group "one of the great strengths of [Osborne's] sermon-based small group model is that it demands a less skilled and less biblically literate leader" (p. 125).

Under-qualified leaders can be coached, trained and developed. Others are simply unqualified for leadership and need to be avoided during the selection process. Osborne's advice is to avoid modern-day Pharisee "God-Talkers" (pp. 126-7) and those for whom gray areas are always black and white (pp. 127-8).

Interestingly enough the place to find good potential leaders is not always intuitive. Osborne notes (rightly) that "surprisingly, one of the worst fishing pools for recruiting successful small group leaders is found among those who previously held a leadership position in another church or served in a parachurch ministry" (pp. 129-30, italics mine). Not only does this seem counterintuitive but when the reasons are misunderstood there is great potential for hurt feelings. Leadership selection isn't about making friends, it's about developing quality leaders.

Selection by definition means choosing the best from among a group of potential candidates. Therefore Osborne suggests that the posted sign-up sheet, the bulletin announcement or plea from the pulpit are not necessarily the best recruiting tools (p. 131). Neither is the 30-page job description (p. 132). Instead, "simply tell them what they will be required to do. Then step back and let life happen" (p. 133).

Finding and developing good leaders in ministry is no easy task. I'm thankful for the practical wisdom that Osborne shares not only in this chapter but throughout the book. May God bless those who read and use this book in their own small groups and ministries that we might all become "sticky" and make a greater impact on lives for Jesus Christ.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Sticky Church at your local or online Christian bookstore or enter to win a free copy a reader of this review (see this posting for details).

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Behind the Music: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

The stories behind these hymns always seem to enhance their richness. Take a look at what Bob Kauflin says about this classic at

A Hymn for Ordinary Christians - Great Is Thy Faithfulness
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Win This Book

Want to win a copy of Larry Osborne's recent book Sticky Church? Here are a few hoops you will need to jump through; the more hoops, the better you're chances to win.

1) Let me know the you are a subscriber to Returned Sheep (existing subscribers - 1 entry; new subscribers - 2 entries)

2) Read and comment on my August 20, 2009 post on Chapter 16: Finding and Developing Leaders of Osborne's book. (2 entries)

3) Share you're own tip on finding and developing leaders in ministry (not limited to small group ministry). (2 entries)

4) Bonus: Tweet about my post on Twitter (@eric_nygren)

Be sure and check out the rest of the Sticky Church blog tour while you're at it.

Contest ends Monday, August 24, 2009 at 9:00 am (CDT). Winner will be contacted for shipping info sometime early next week.

p.s. - You can read my earlier review on Sticky Church posted here last October.
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Two Quotes on The Cost of Discipleship

Sunday's sermon was on the cost of discipleship from Luke 14:25-35. Here are two quotes that made it into the sermon that I found especially fitting.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 45)

“Following Jesus is so supremely important that it calls for behaviors that are sometimes going to look like hate to the world.” (John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World, p. 72.)
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Myth Busted?

If you've not yet discovered start with this:

(I also just found out they're on twitter @factcheckdotorg)

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Are you married to your church?

Take a look at what Adrian Warnock has to say about committing "spiritual adultery by neglecting your bride in favor of Christ's."

Trackback Thursday on Suffering (Available for Free on Kindle)

Piper (and JT) fans check out this contest. What's better than a free book?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ipod on repeat

I just picked up the iWorship Experience CD the other day and have been stuck on one song in particular. Here are the lyrics to the bridge:

"Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me.

Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity."

from Hosanna (c) 2006 Brooke Fraser/Hillsong Publishing CCLI#4785835

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Review: Religion Saves by Mark Driscoll

I had a feeling I would like this book as soon as I pulled it out of its padded mailing envelope. Even the book's 'retro' looking cover suggested that there would be something different about this read. I looked forward to finally reading one of the increasingly popular pastor Mark Driscoll's works.

Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions is by no means just another summary of current hot topics the church is wrestling with. Instead, Driscoll's book thoroughly and thoughtfully tackles nine subjects that his Seattle based congregation put forth for his review. Are these the nine most important topics that Christians should be addressing today? Perhaps no, but one could argue that neither were the topics that the Apostle Paul addressed in the aptly compared First Letter to the Corinthians.

Of these nine subjects that Driscoll surveys some will likely continue to be tossed around in theological debate long into the church's future (Predestination - Question 7, Grace - Question 6, Faith and Works - Question 4). Other chapters address how we should go about forming biblically informed convictions and putting faith into practice (Birth Control - Question 9, Sexual Sin - Question 5, Dating - Question 3). Finally, Driscoll approaches subjects particularly relevant to the challenges of doing ministry today in our postmodern culture (Humor - Question 8, The Emerging Church - Question 2, The Regulative Principle - Question 1).

Driscoll's writing style stays extremely conversational throughout the book without sacrificing contemplative depth. Almost every page is footnoted with references to Scripture as well as other helpful works on the subject. Some readers might be a bit put off by the author's bluntness in his presentation but Driscoll needs not apologize. Matters such as these require both thoughtful reflection and heartfelt conviction for their presentation, both of which shine through from cover to cover.

While Religion Saves might be a bit more 'theological' then other popular works readers may used to, I found this work to be very approachable for most any pew (or stackable chair) sitter in our churches today. Grab a copy at your local Christian bookstore and enjoy. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

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