Book review: Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain

April 24, 2011

Bible Teaching May Be Good Medicine, Not Science

There seem to be seven universal struggles that cause humankind emotional pain. At least this is how it is distilled by Paul Meier, M.D. and David Henderson, M.D., both psychiatrists. I muster no argument with these–being further along than “spring chicken,” I have suffered many of the circumstances described by Dr.’s Meier and Henderson. I am relatively happy these days, but I work in an environment (at a church) where there is plenty of potential for encountering people in pain, so I thought the medical science being reported by psychiatrists would be useful to my understanding others’ pain. I was somewhat disappointed.

It is clear that Dr.’s Meier and Henderson are biblically informed, devoted Christian men. They offer the reader many anecdotal stories of patients who present symptoms of suffering from the seven universal struggles. They ably illustrate how biblical teaching informs us about root causes of this suffering, and how faith in the Redeemer-Saviour can comfort the sufferer. But, because help was being offered by psychiatrists, I was expecting to find more involvement of medical science in the presentation of solutions. I would think such a work would be flush with scientific documentation–not even half the chapters have notes. Of all the notes–contained on just two pages–only four cite the work of other clinicians. I thought it would be science–I got bible teaching instead. The bible teaching is good, but I felt a little mislead by this material being presented by psychiatrists, teaching biblical truths, not science.

*This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers*


Survey of Church Event Management Software

October 26, 2010

I posted a request for participation in a very brief survey a few weeks ago on the ChurchAdmin Yahoo Group.  Thanks to all who responded.  There were 35 responses to the survey.

The survey had just a few questions intended to elicit the range of software in use by churches participating in the ChurchAdmin group, how respondents liked the software and why, and what features were most important.  Here is what the survey said:

Which tool do you use?

% of total Like?
ACS Technologies 29% 50%
Shelby Systems 6% 50%
EventU 31% 95%
EMS / Dean Evans 3% 100%
Some other 31% 83%

A question about the response to the “Like?” question was added after about a dozen entries were made.  Of the 23 remaining responses, 16 people gave an answer.  Almost all said they liked having the calendar online (web display and web registrations.)  Of those who said they did not like what they were currently using, the responses were about ease of use and stability of the software.

If “Some other tool” was the tool of choice, I asked what it was.  The responses were, Google Calendar (4), Logos (2), and one each for ministrEspace, Shepard’s Staff, Connection Power, MyChurch Events, and Outlook.

When asked about the features that were most important the choices and responses looked like this:

Avoid overbooking 83%
Publication on the web 40%
Online registrations 29%
Reporting capabilities 20%
Simplicity/ ease of use 54%

Thanks again to all who participated….all done to help me make a decision (it’s down to EventU and ministrEspace)…hope it will be helpful to some of you, also.

Get a free eBook, right here…

December 16, 2009

Ever heard of Seth Godin?…I don’t know him, personally…only via his blog, and books.  Here is a compilation by him of some great minds’ commentary, in a new eBook, “What Matters Now?”

Go get it….

In Case of Emergency

November 27, 2009

Book Review: The Search for God and Guinness, by Stephen Mansfield

October 11, 2009

I think I may have had a Guinness only once before in my life, and if so, then tonight I had my second.  Now, knowing the story of this storied family, it was really enjoyable.  I’m a convert.

Stephen Mansfield’s bailiwick is History.  With a PhD in history and literature he is a highly skilled researcher and a gifted writer.  But “The Search…” is more story than accurate and complete history of a family and the business that carries its name.  In it, he tells of the clan of Arthur Guinness and sons who brewed the most popular beer in the world, some also became bankers, and with daughters and others they equipped over 1300 Christian missionaries for service in China.  There is much more…the common labor workers in the Guinness brewery in Dublin likely had the highest standard of living of all workers at their time and place.  Arthur Guinness brewed beer as an alternative to stronger drink, providing a relatively healthful alternative to even the septic water in the domestic supply, and he believed that he was called by God to do it this way, and to help his fellow man up from the squalor of an overcrowded city.  And, of course, there is the Book of Records.

Mansfield is a pleasure to read.  His credentials and style make me think of writers like Tom Wolfe and Thomas Cahill.  In this book, the beer is a side story…the real story is the life of faith in Christ that was inspired by the first Arthur of the Guinness clan.

Book review: What Difference Do it Make?

September 26, 2009

by Ron Hall and Denver Moore (with Lynn Vincent)

Denver Moore: “One day I asked Mr. Ron, ‘Mr. Ron, all these white folks be invitin us to their Bible studies. How come none of ‘em’s invitin us to their Bible doins?’” (The opening line of Chapter 21, What Difference Do it Make?)

You may have read Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore (with Lynn Vincent) about the improbable friendship of a wealthy international art dealer, his Christ following wife, and an illiterate homeless man who’d been raised in modern slavery as a sharecropper in Louisiana. When Ron and Deborah Hall met Denver Moore he was threatening bodily harm to a group of about 20 other homeless people and workers in the Union Gospel Mission of Fort Worth.  But Mrs. Hall’s Christian regard for Mr. Moore eventually convinced him that he was loved, even when he was unlovable.  Mr. Hall’s love for his wife led him to understand that Mr. Moore was not all that different from him.

Not long after, Deborah Hall lost a battle with very aggressive cancer.  Having become friends, Mr. Moore and Mr. Hall felt they should tell the story of how Mrs. Hall had wrought such profound change in both their hearts, and that’s how Same Kind of Different came to be.  If you haven’t already, you will probably want to read the first book after reading this one.  The story of this profound change of heart is continued in this book, about how people who stoop a little to help another person up have changed lives as a result.  The difference that it makes is what happens when people put their Bible studies into action, into Bible doins.

Mitigating H1N1 for CFBOs

September 26, 2009

Or, What to do About the Flu

This week, HHS released a new guide for Community and Faith-Based Organizations that gives the latest information for dealing with the novel H1N1 strain of influenza.  I listened in on a conference call with the HHS Secretary on Thursday, and the week before, my Chapter of NACBA heard a presentation by the lead Policy Coordinator for Influenza at the CDC in Atlanta.  Here is the gist of what I got out of these meetings:

  1. Get vaccinated, especially if you are in a high-risk group (see below)
  2. Take everyday preventive actions:
      Cover your cough or sneeze
      Wash your hands
      Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
      Stay home if you’re sick
  3. See your doctor, and get anti-viral prescription meds to help minimize your symptoms

The H1N1 virus is “novel” to humans; there is no established immunity.  This means that people will easily become sick and the illness will be easily spread from person to person.  If someone coughs or sneezes in the open, the virus can land where others will be exposed, and the virus can live without a host for several hours.  Also, an infected person can be contagious with the virus for as much as 24 hours before they have symptoms of illness.  In recent years anywhere from 5% to 20% of the population in the US becomes ill with seasonal flu and approximately 36,000 die from flu-related illness.  Because there is no immunity to the H1N1 virus, this flu season is likely to be very different from recent history.

On the other hand, because of the seriousness of this situation, there will be heightened awareness and the public may be more compliant with principles of disease mitigation.  We in the Faith-based community have an opportunity to have a major impact on the outcome of this flu season.  We have kind of a captive audience…and it is a major portion of the US population.  We also have a generally well-trusted pulpit, and can have an impact on the community around us by hosting meetings to deliver the message.

Visit the CFBO page at to get more links to resources.

The High-Risk Groups

(this is quoted, pretty much verbatim, from the cfbo guidance page at

The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for anyone who wants to reduce their risk of becoming ill with flu. It is particularly important for persons at increased risk of severe illness or for spreading the infection to persons who are at high risk. These people include:

  • People aged 6 months through 18 years or age 50 years or older;
  • People with underlying medical conditions, such as chronic heart or lung diseases or diabetes;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Healthcare providers;
  • People who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age; and
  • Residents of long-term care facilities.

If you are unsure about whether you should receive the seasonal flu vaccine, contact your healthcare provider.

When the vaccine first becomes available, the groups of people who will be in greatest need for protection against the  H1N1 flu virus are:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months old;
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel;
  • All people aged 6 months to 24 years; and
  • People aged 25 through 64 years with chronic health conditions

Book Review: Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller

September 2, 2009

Right from the very beginning, Blue Like Jazz will pull you in.  Don Miller writes with an engaging assembly of words and ideas that just make you want to keep turning the pages.  Transparency is a concept that is getting a lot of press these days.  Don Miller takes this idea and puts flesh on it, his own flesh.  You, pretty quickly, get a sense that you could immediately join Don in intimate conversation, because you know who he is.

I found Blue Like Jazz via a reference to it in a Tweet from one of the people I follow…I don’t remember who now.  But I went to my favorite bookseller, found that an e-version was available, and started reading within minutes.  It might be because I feel that I have a lot in common with Don Miller—both our fathers left when we were little boys…his, just because he wanted to; mine, because he got sick and ultimately died, which made me really angry with God because even before he was sick my dad was remote and aloof where I was concerned, so I had a real problem with God when my dad got sick and I knew we would never be reconciled.  But I digress—I loved this book and I think I’d love to call Don Miller a friend.

If you, or someone you know, struggle with having a relationship with God, you want to read this book.  You will connect with the real person that Don Miller is, and he will walk with you through a journey that shows God’s unconditional love for us, and why we need that.

Not about church administration

July 26, 2009

This past week I had the great privilege to be with our church (where I worship, not where I work) youth for their Summer Camp…what an experience!  For several years now my church has attended a Passport Camp at Wingate University near Charlotte, NC.  Wingate has a terrific facility for this venture and it has become a wonderful partnership between the University, its nearby community, and the Passport organization.

I want you to know about Passport.  There are multiple sites and programs for young people from third grade through high school.  I most highly and strongly recommend you consider this camp for your church.  You most likely do not have this responsibility, but your Youth and Children’s Ministry Leaders will thank you if your word leads to their participation in it.

Passport arises from Baptist roots (more Cooperative Baptist Fellowship than Southern Baptist Convention) but is not flavored heavily with any denominational baggage…it is just basic Christianity.   The organization has been around since 1993 and they have developed a program that engages the youth at level that is both high level fun and intensely spiritual.  Aside from a sound biblical curriculum, I saw “creative” done with extraordinary execution…no doubt the genious of the camp’s executives, David & Colleen Burroughs, and their talented staff.

They employ young adults, college age or recent graduates, for all the roles.  Our director  just completed her second year teaching fifth grade; the preacher will go back to his second year at Baylor’s Truett School of Theology; and our worship leader works for the Passport organization in Kenya.  There were about a dozen others, men and women, who led bible study and the half-day Mission or Life-skill activities.  Every one of them was selected to work at Passport because of their passionate love of the Lord and their gifts of youth leadership.

I am pretty sure I did not have the kind of energy these kids have when I was fourteen.  They are full of Real Life and are not the least inhibited about it.  I had a pretty hard time keeping up.  But I was also moved by how the youth responded to this four day immersion in Christian spirituality.  And I heard the gospel preached in a fresh way that had its impact on me too…guess I’m really a teenager inside my head.

If you think your youth leader could use something better than her/his current status quo, pass this on to them.  I’ll bet they’ll go back the next year, and the year after.

Book Review: Ministry Nuts & Bolts, Aubrey Malphurs, PhD

May 2, 2009

Developing a competent realistic vision, and along with it a strategy for getting there, are the fundamental groundwork, or nuts & bolts,  for a ministry.  This is true at any level, whether the ministry is the Church or a department or ministry within a given church.  The expression, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” comes to mind.

Dr. Malphurs has distilled his many years of work with churches and in academia to cast a very readable, very clear process for capturing the essence of a church ministry.  He shows how to determine core values and ministry purpose, then how these relate to and inform the crafting of a vision statement, and then finally, how to unpack the vision to get at a concrete, well-defined, and achievable strategy for accomplishing the church or ministry vision.

I read the first edition of this book.  When I learned that a new edition was due for release on April 30, I talked with Dr. Malphurs about what was new in the second edition.  I asked how he had adjusted his teaching in the twelve years since he first wrote it, given the current state of church visioning, and looking at who is growing and who is not.   It turns out little has changed in the new Nuts and Bolts that Dr. Malphurs suggests we engage to hold it all together. The old material is still relevant.  There is some additional material on the strategy process in the new edition.

If you are planning, or if you feel like you ought to be thinking about re-visiting your church’s purpose for being, this would be a good starting point.  You may be serving in a role, as I do, where this is not in your job description.  If this is the case, you still would get useful tools for helping shape your own personal ministry (I mean your very self) or the vision and strategy for your administration department.  And if your church is “kind of wandering along,” this book will equip you to ask your pastor some tough questions that you can then help him/her answer.

This is a good book…I give it five stars, and think you would have spent your money well to acquire it for your shelf.  If you can get a bargain on the first edition you may want to pair it with one of Dr. Malphurs’ new books on strategy, Advanced Strategic Planning, 2005.