Archive for August, 2009

5 Church Leaders Who Have Impacted My Life & Ministry

I’m so thankful for the many great influences that the Lord has put around me at key stages in my life. He has constantly provided key mentors at key moments — real-life people who invest and care. But he’s also provided a number of “distance mentors,” most of whom I’ve never met in person and all of whom I won’t have a personal relationship with. Nonetheless, these are good leaders who have helped me learn important lessons that have shaped my ministry and leadership. Here are five that I’m particularly thankful for:

1. John Piper

Piper is the pastor of preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN and the key resource behind DesiringGod. His writing and preaching have formed me in deep and powerful ways. Nobody articulates a passion for the supremacy of God better than him and it’s contagious. If I have any heart for the sovereignty of God, reformed theology, or a tender-hearted compassion for the hurting it’s owing greatly to Piper’s ministry. You can get 25+ years of Piper resources here and follow him on Twitter here (this is worth having a Twitter account all by itself).

2. Tim Keller

Keller is the founding and senior minister at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, NY. Keller’s richest gift to me has been his understanding and articulation of the gospel. His ability to connect everything in the Scripture to the gospel is profound and instructive for any young preacher. Additionally, Keller has great perspectives on understanding and engaging culture, as well as church planting. You can get a bunch of free audio and written resources here.

3. Andy Stanley

Stanley is the founding pastor of NorthPoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. The son of well-known preacher Charles Stanley, he has blazed a trail in his own right. The key lessons I’ve learned from him have been 1) the importance of creating relevant ministry environments that engage people where they’re at, 2) the importance of communicating one point with clarity, passion, and creativity, and 3) a variety of leadership lessons. When it comes to their preaching, Stanley and Piper could not be more different, and I’ve learned great things about communicating the gospel from both of them. You can listen to Stanley’s sermons here, his Leadership Podcast here, and his 7 Practices of Effective Ministry here.

4. James MacDonald

James MacDonald is the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, IL and can be heard all over the place through his Walk in the Word radio ministry. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve really begun to listen to him, and almost everything he says and does communicates one idea: “The Bible is sufficient.” MacDonald loves God’s word and preaches it with passion, clarity, and conviction. I often find myself listening to him on Friday and Saturday just because he stokes my passion for God and his word as I prepare my heart to preach. You can listen to his radio podcast here, read his blog here, or listen to his Straight Up Conference messages here.

5. Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is the founding pastor of The Journey Church, also in Manhattan, NYC and the founder of Church Leader Insights. Formerly a key staff person with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven ministry, Searcy is a master of church systems. He has been helpful for me as we worked through key strategies related to planting Second Mile and as we developed our first impressions, follow up, and community group ministries. He’s a former engineer and brings that kind of systematic thinking into the church in a way that I find helpful. Though I would guess we would differ on certain theological convictions, we share a common desire to see people love Jesus, and Searcy’s ideas have been very helpful.You can listen to his Church Leader Insights podcast here.

This list reminds me that even the most admired people are really only good at a few things. Thus, it’s crucial to be able to learn different things from different people — even those whom you would not agree with on all doctrinal or philosophical points.

Who have you learned from and what did you learn?

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How Do You Get Here?

We’re currently thinking through how to most strategically utilize our use of social media (website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for the sake of effective discipleship and communication with our church community. With that in mind, I thought we’d try to figure out how you end up on this site reading these posts.

Can you help us with the following poll?

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Want Refreshment?

I’ve spent a good amount of time outside over these last few hot days and it always makes me crave some serious cool refreshment (thank God for A/C and cold water!). But I also want spiritual refreshment. I want to sense vitality in my relationship with God in a meaningful way. Thankfully, God’s word points me in the right direction.

I recently studied Proverbs 3:5-8 and saw some great truths emerge, just based on the structure of the passage, on how to be refreshed. Here’s how I wrote it out in my journal:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and

do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and

he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord, and

turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh and

refreshment to your bones.

You want refreshment? Did you catch how it comes? It comes through Confidence in God: 1) trusting in the Lord, 2) acknowledging him, 3) fearing him and Turning Away from Sin: 1) do not lean on your own understanding, 2) don’t be wise in your own eyes, and 3) turn away from evil.

May we be people who are trusting God deeply and repenting constantly that we may receive abundant refreshment of grace.


Are you an Orphan or a Child?

One of the best new resources available on Gospel-Centeredness is a 9-part study called “The Gospel-Centered Life” (they’re offering FREE review copies through 9/30/09). It has some helpful questions, articles and exercises that help you begin to live out the implications of the gospel in an ongoing way.

One of the most helpful exercises in the study is called “Orphans vs. Children.” Take a look at a few of the descriptions below and see which is more a tendency in you (a complete list can be found in the study).


  • Lacks a vital daily intimacy with God
  • Anxious about friends, money, school, grades, etc.
  • Feels as if no one cares about you
  • Lives on a success/fail basis
  • Needs to look good
  • Has to fix your problems
  • Needs to be right
  • Is defensive when accused of error or weakness
  • Has a critical spirit (complaining and bitterness)


  • Feels freed from worry because of God’s love for you
  • Learning to live in daily partnership with God
  • Not fearful of God
  • Feels forgiven and totally accepted
  • A daily trust in God’s sovereign plan for your life
  • Freedom from making a name for yourself
  • Able to examine your deeper motives
  • Open to criticism because you rest on Christ’s perfection
  • Trusting less in self and more in the Holy Spirit

Do you need this study? Get it for free here.

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Fall On-Ramp Now Open!

For those of you Second Milers who are regular blog readers, you get a sneak peek at the fall “On-Ramp” Group & Ministry Catalog. I’m excited about the ministry that will take place through our church this fall. We’re now up to 16 Community Groups this fall(!), which should be enough to allow anybody in our church to participate in life-changing community and discipleship.

This fall we’re going to be preaching verse-by-verse through Colossians on Sunday, and every group will spend time applying the lessons during the week. After a summer of great topic-driven groups, I’m looking forward to a season of deeper relationship building and application. The goal is to become “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”

Check out the Fall “On-Ramp” and get involved!

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Heading to Atlanta

Yesterday after our worship gathering I boarded a plane where I’m spending a week at Reformed Theological Seminary Atlanta for an intensive course on Hebrews through Revelation that’s part of my Master’s degree program. While I’m there I get to spend some time with a number of family members who live there (including my uncle John who founded the Goshen Valley Boys Ranch). If you think of me, pray that I’ll be able to have a tender heart towards God’s word and learn a number of valuable things.

See you next week!


A Song of Hope

In Sunday’s sermon, Matthew mentioned the value of hoping in God and the joy that life is with him now and in the future. Meditating on the solid hope of what’s to come gives us great strength here and now to trust God in the midst of a variety of circumstances.

A song that communicates this idea well is called “You Hold Me Now” by Hillsong. It’s part of their newly released album, “Faith + Hope + Love” (you can listen to it one time free online here). I love the lyrics:

On that day when I see
All that You have for me
When I see You face to face
There surrounded by Your grace

All my fears swept away
In the light of your embrace
When Your love is all I need
And forever I am free

Where the streets are made of gold
In Your presence healed and whole
Let these songs of heaven rise to you alone

No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suff’ring You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness no sickening
No hiding You hold me now,
You hold me now

In this life I will stand
Through my joy and my pain
Knowing there’s a greater day
There’s a hope that never fails

When You’re name is lifted high
And forever praises rise
For the glory of Your Name
I’m believing for the day

When the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
Let these songs of heaven rise to you alone

Check out a video of the song below.