A Summer’s Reading List – in the Fall

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pumpkin spice latteAAAHHH…

That warm Summer’s breeze at the beach with the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. You kick up your feet and reach for your ice-cold pumpkin spiced latte (to the great chagrin of my contemporaries on this blog). Errr, ummm…

What’s a summer’s reading list doing on a blog at THIS time of year anyway!? Christmas, after all, is only nine weekends away…

But that’s exactly it. It’s THAT time of year! Not to toot my own horn, but with many ministry obligations and assignments due and with a newborn about to enter the world at (in the doctor’s words) any moment, time is a luxury (isn’t it always?). Needless to say, I’m strapped, but while there are always a lot of things to do, I value my commitment write on our blog, something I thoroughly enjoy doing and there’s certainly never a shortage of things to talk about!

That being said, I wanted to offer to you, not really a summer’s reading list, but instead offer a review of one of the books I’ve read this past summer that was on my summer’s reading list. Books are not particularly cheap, and with the great quantity of “Christian” (to use the term loosely) literature being produced these days, it’s hard to find something that’s worth both your time and money!

So…

church planting is for wimpsChurch Planting is for Wimps by Mike McKinley is one that I would recommend to any church leader. Now, as I say that, there’s something that just churns in my stomach, because as I read the book myself, there was a constant thorn in the flesh that I soon realized was something I’d just have to put up with, and walk away with the principles and insights that were quite invaluable. More on that in a second…

This book though (as the title suggests) is not about church planting, though many of the principles would certainly be very applicable to church planting, or any other ministry for that matter. The book instead outlines the essential elements to a successful church revitalization effort (according to McKinley, which is much more challenging than starting something from ground zero), as he tells the story of his own experiences during his first four years at his church, which was a sponsored 9Marks church in the DC area.

His writing is engaging and easy to read. You could easily finish the book in an hour, or if you read at a more pleasurable pace, in an evening. At the same time though, I found his style unnecessarily and deliberately edgy quite often, maybe trying too hard to be cool and hip. Unfortunately, as I said, the principles in the book are very good! And I fear that this (dare I say) juvenile approach limits the scope of McKinley’s readership, which is unfortunate. Discussions about his tattoos, his wife shaving her head, or the size of his biceps are distracting from the subject, which is otherwise helpful and insightful. These kinds of statements unfortunately diminish his credibility since he seems to make a point of highlighting his youthfulness while flaunting his Christian liberty.

I’m convinced that that’s not his intention (if it was I would have probably just put the book away), but McKinley seems to have a genuine love for the church, and the sanctification and purification of the people of God. Within his book, I found three chapters especially helpful.

One Thing is Necessary 

When a pastor walks into a church, the things competing for his time are endless. Certainly many of these things do need to be addressed! But McKinley does right to point out that these things absolutely cannot be at the expense of the pastor’s sermon prep, which is by far the easiest thing to skimp on (though perhaps the most noticeable come Sunday). This is especially important for a young pastor to remember though, since it will only be by the young pastor’s faithfulness to rightly divide the Word of God that he will earn the trust of the older sheep in his flock. That’s right… you don’t deserve that respect! You earn it. And by the way, as many young pastors are especially prone to, you have to guard against misplaced pragmatism, pride, and a lack of confidence in God’s Word. “Open mindedness” is the new humility. Actually, its a false-humility, so don’t fall to it. Be dogmatic, just make sure you’re genuinely humble at the same time.

Cleaning out the Sheaves 

This chapter discusses some of the foundational matters that need to be discussed in every church… and continue to be discussed. Foremost, McKinley rightly points out the importance of membership for the sake of purity and the testimony of the church (which includes church discipline). Practice it, and teach it to your flock. I loved this part too… where he completely dismantles the fad-like notion that a church without a catchy one-line purpose statement is doomed to fail. It simply isn’t biblical, and the church of God did quite well long before the church marketing frenzy of the 20th and 21st centuries. That said, a philosophy of ministry and statement of faith is VERY important. The statement of faith clearly communicates what your church believes and teaches, and your philosophy of ministry communicates how you apply your statement of faith in your church.

How to Ruin Everything 

Do not neglect your family, and it starts at the top with a healthy marriage. It’s hard, and it takes a proactive commitment to be available to your family to shepherd them. Remember, this is the responsibility of every father and husband! You don’t get a free pass on this one just because you’re the pastor! You should be modeling it (and you shouldn’t want a free pass anyway)!!! BUT, I know a lot of pastors will give lip-service to this principle and nod their heads in agreement without practicing it themselves. McKinley is quite open and candid in this section, as he reveals the near disastrous results on his marriage as began to feel the pressures involved with a revitalization effort while one of the largest churches in America (Capitol Hill Baptist) was watching for his success. First, be careful of your motivation for wanting your church’s success. Remember, it’s the Lord who builds His church and He has outlined how He intends to do it. And second, don’t wrongly assume that the Lord requires us to neglect our wives and children in order to build His church.

So, in the end, GET THE BOOK! You may, or may not be annoyed by the style as I was… I’d like to point out that there was definitely NOT anything crude! The principles are solid and biblical, and you’ll be blessed to be reminded of them.

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