New Books for You in February 2015

January 20, 2015 Category :Blog 0

Today I’m doing something I haven’t done in years but something I definitely enjoy: speaking to a great group of students at Student Leadership University’s 101 in Orlando. One of the things students hear is a great reminder for us all: who you become is based in no small way on the people you meet, the books you read, and the places you go. I like to add this starts with meeting Jesus, reading His Word, and going to the cross.

As we are already over halfway through the first month of the year (time is racing!) I wanted to pick up on this saying and mention a couple of books I have coming out in February which would make great additions to your library (my books are great cures for insomnia, after all).

First, a book on revival. John Avant has been one of my best friends since seminary days. In 1995, his church in Texas experienced a powerful movement of God that eventually touched many churches and over 100 college campuses according to the late Bill Bright. A book was produced on this movement at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church and Howard Payne University, and its spread to Wheaton College and other places. This month marks 20 years since that movement, so we are offering an updated book entitled Revival Revived that includes the stories of the movement but adds an update on where many of those college students are now. It also adds a couple of chapters on things John and I have learned about revival. This book is especially for: college students and youth (and their leaders) hungry for revival; pastors and others who seek to revitalize their churches; any believer who hungers for God.

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Second, I am thrilled to release a book written with our son Josh on student ministry in February with Rainer Publishing. The book is entitled Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World  The book is a follow-up to my book As You Go and features practical helps on getting out of the church office into the public schools and communities around us. It includes many examples from student pastors, a crash course on witness training for students, and a variety of ideas to be missional in our communities. This book is especially for: student pastors and workers; students who seek to reach their peers; parents of youth; school teachers and administrators; and, pastors who seek to have student ministries that are effective in reaching youth. As Jason Gaston of Summit Church said in his endorsement of the book, get 2 copies, one for you and one to give to a student pastor you know!

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Writing offers a way for me to encourage and equip leaders. These specific books aim at both inspiring and equipping you to understand more about the work of God in revival and in the practical work of reaching students today. I pray these will bless you!

Thanks to First Baptist, Naples!

January 19, 2015 Category :Blog 0

I mentioned in my last post this weekend is my last DNow. What a weekend it has been. I’m finishing this AM with a message at the beach and baptisms.

Last night the staff at FBC Naplesimage surprised me with a treasured gift, a signed plaque commemorating my last DNow. This will be in my office if you want to see it! So grateful for churches who love preachers!

 

 

The End of An Era

January 18, 2015 Category :Blog| Featured Books| Leadership| Missional| Movements| Student Ministry 0

This weekend spells the end of a very important 15-year season of life for me. In 1999, a student I was mentoring arranged for me to speak at his home church in the Atlanta area. I had spoken at some youth events before then and had done an occasional retreat or weekend youth revival meeting, but this one would be different. It would worship3.jpgchange the trajectory of much of my itinerant ministry and help shape my ministry focus at SEBTS.

This would be my first DiscipleNow. The DiscipleNow, or DNow, as most of you know, refers to a weekend where students worship together corporately and then stay in host homes Friday and Saturday nights where they have Bible studies, talk about life, and hopefully get a little sleep. The first one I did had about 225 students with a student pastor who wanted to do more with his students. So, having never done one before, I suggested spending Saturday afternoon sharing Christ. It was a “disciple now,” was it not?

Each small group of guys or girls was given an opportunity to do servant evangelism and LOVED it. Most groups did not want to stop when the time ended. The senior high girls, which included a young lady named Jamie who is now married to pastor Mike McDaniel at Summit Church in RDU, cleaned toilets in gas stations. And, I had a jolly good time speaking to and ministering with them. Some of those first students (like Jamie and her sister Christina) later became my students at SEBTS and now serve in ministry in several states.

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DNows have been great for recruiting also. I think there has not been a year in the past fifteen when I have failed to meet a new seminary student I first met at a DNow. I now teach both evangelism and student ministry at SEBTS, and no small influence on this has been my involvement in these weekends.

But all good things must come to an end. I’m 55 years old and being far more careful about my travel these days. A wise mentor/counselor has challenged me these days to do things in ministry God has particularly called me to, and while I love youth, that has more to do with their leaders than them. So, I am doing my last ever DNow this weekend at the First Baptist Church of Naples, Florida. Last night we saw youth come to Christ; today they are going on mission across the area. With 77 degree temps in January, with our last service on the beach with baptisms, it’s a great place to land this plane.

I think I have done about 150 of these. I’ve seen some great things by God’s grace: 50 students saved one night in Alabama, reports of public school principals noticing the change in students weeks following a DNow, many conversions, folks called to ministry, and more. God has been good through the years. There have been some perplexing things along the way: that youth pastor’s daughter who told me she so loved DNow because Friday nights they got to roll peoples yards all night (something is missing here), some really cheesy tee shirts (sorry, Goodwill), and leaders who actually commended students on Saturday who got the least sleep the night before. Overall, these have ben a great blessing, albeit tiring.

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Another reason I Iove DNows: they gave me a great chance to minister with our kids. I really loved taking Josh and Hannah with me on so many of these. Josh played drums for years in a band, and Hannah came along on a ot as well. Maybe that’s the main reason it’s easy for me to close this chapter of ministry, becaue they are grown and married and no longer go with me.

I want to thank every church that had an old guy like me come and speak to your students. I know I’m not your typical youth speaker. I’m grateful that you entrusted your students to me. And, I can say without hesitation I gained more than I ever gave at these weekends.

I will continue to be involved in next generation ministry, writing (see my new book coming out mid-February with my son Josh called Get Out), speaking to leaders (I do several youth pastor events annually), and doing an occasional youth camp (yes, I still do a few of those). I actually (with some of my great students) produced some DNow small group material based on my book AS YOU GO you can see here (it’s free). And, I will do some training for youth and adults and parents. Equipping leaders is the focus henceforth. I’m very excited about the next chapter. I did not anticipate spending my 40s and half of my 50s with so many teens, so it will be exciting to see what the Lord has in store for the next 15 years!

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Are You a Pastor, Planter, Missionary, Church Leader? 7 Steps for 2015

December 31, 2014 Category :Blog| Revival and Awakening| Vision 0

I meet a lot of godly ministers who genuinely seek to serve Christ and His church yet seem exhausted and stressed out a lot. Too often I see stories of tragedy, even suicide, among church leaders. Our hyper-driven culture can confuse overcrowded schedules and a life of whirl with a daily walk with Christ. Yesterday I shared about the dramatic changes in my life over 2014 and how my perspective has changed (READ THAT FIRST). I plan on having a very productive and active 2015; I also plan to do so with much wisdom and with a much better focus. If you tend to confuse being busy with being godly and performance with a passion for Christ, perhaps these suggestions will help to get you started in the new year.

1. Focus daily on your calling. In II Tim 2:1 Paul tells Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. God’s grace in Christ is the foundation of our calling, not our gifts, talents, or opportunities.  I’ve learned I can do a lot of things; for too long I did too many of them. For instance,  I have spoken at 150-200 DiscipleNows. I love them. The first thing my counseling prof told me to do was to cut those from my life. “Stop doing things a lot of people can do and do the things God has called you to do that few others can,” he told me. Yeah, I knew that. But I wasn’t doing it, so I was a hypocrite. God has called me to equip leaders. I’ve known that. But God called me through the context of the Jesus Movement and has given me passion for revival and spiritual formation ever since. God this past year brought me back to my heart for revival. Because of this, last fall I was able to be a part of several significant opportunities I would have completely missed had I not scaled back my life and created margin to do what God had specifically called me to. More than this, God has called me to walk with Him, which I value afresh and will prioritize over anything else I “accomplish” for Him.

2. Value margin. You can do less, do it well, and fulfill your calling, and do so while maintaining your sanity. The idea that our importance is relative to our level of busyness in our calendar is a myth. Jesus OFTEN got away from His busy ministry to spend time with His Father. He had time to be interrupted. If you find yourself regularly texting people to say you are running behind, you need margin.

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3. Learn to say NO. The word “no” is a complete sentence. Every time you say yes to something you are also saying no to other things. We greatly overestimate the impact of saying no to someone. If you have 12 things to do in a day and can only do 7, you must say no to 5. Look at your calendar. Where is the margin?

4. Learn to Delegate. I’m still very active. I’m a pastor at our church, teach full-time at Southeastern, publish books and travel. But I also have a great secretary at work and a fantastic team of co-laborers at church that allow me to do what pastors and teachers and writers do. I’ve become convinced that one of the most dangerous things a minister can do is spend time doing things he should be letting others do both for their growth and his sanity.

5. Value Spiritual Disciplines and Sabbaths, including personal retreats. Can you get to the place where you value a couple of hours alone with Jesus as much as you value standing before people to speak?  We do not practice the disciplines because we are strong leaders, but because we realize we are weak and need the Holy Spirit to work through us. It could be that the most important thing you schedule in the new year is a series of personal retreats.

6. Exercise and eat well. Too many of us in ministry are fat and don’t care about it. We cannot compartmentalize our spiritual body from our physical or emotional health. Get a plan, make some changes, get healthier. Riding a bicycle has become a big one for me. We are not entitled to eat junk and be undisciplined, we are bought with a price!

7. Focus on individuals more than crowds. I started off 2014 speaking to 5000 youth at a conference in Georgia. I was in serious pain and sat on a stool, but I loved it, and I do love teens. But the most important thing I did in 2014 was not speaking at big events like this; it was when I spent time investing in a few young men, and leading a few folks over the year to Jesus. Mentor someone specifically. Share your faith consistently. Ask yourself regularly: who are the people I am mentoring and the friends to whom I am witnessing?

Seven is enough. Or, maybe just one or two of these will do. I am sure of this: those of us who are driven should start 2015 thinking what we should cut out or scale back more than what we should accomplish. Because when we do the former, the latter may just take care of itself.