Sorry Luke Bryan, “Most People Are NOT Good.”

My family and I took a road trip to Texas over our summer break. Seventeen hours crammed into a minivan will definitely bring people closer together–both figuratively and literally. We talked, slept, watched movies, and listened to music. When it comes to music in the Bell family, we enjoy listening to a variety of styles. Our children want to continuously listen to Disney soundtracks. My wife enjoys country music, but when she hears Texas country, she gives me that look of “Take Me Out to the Dancehall” (Pat Green). For me, I listen to pretty much anything and everything.

Christians can listen to all kinds of styles and forms of music. Music is purposed for our enjoyment, but believers need to listen with a critical ear. Francis Schaeffer encouraged his readers to judge art on the basis of its content because the content “reflects the world view of the artist” (Art and the Bible, 64). In other words, music should be thought of as a medium for conveying a message. Believers need to hear and measure the message with our Christian beliefs. When we listen, we should ask not only, “Do I like this song?” but also, “What is this song trying to tell me about the world we live in?” These questions are important because, whether you recognize it or not, music has the ability to shape us.

On our seventeen hour car ride, I heard “Most People Are Good,” by Luke Bryan. From the outset, Luke Bryan–in my opinion–is a decent country artist. My post is not designed to take away his singing talent and musical gifting. I just disagree with the worldview he sings about. The song repeatedly promotes his belief that “most people are good.” When he sings these words, it intends to make us feel good about ourselves. Who doesn’t want that repeated in a chorus? Plus, “good” rhymes with “sainthood,” which is important for any song. However, is this belief really true? Are “most people good?”

The Reality: The Bible seems to paint a very different picture of us as human beings. Luke Bryan might make me feel good, but the Bible tells me I’m actually evil and condemned. For example, David prayed, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). We see the effects of sin in us when Cain murdered his brother Abel after the Fall (Genesis 4:8). Jesus calls us sick people who he came to heal when he states, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). One of the most scathing realities of our condition is from Paul who wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I could go on with other passages, but I think you can see that the Bible sings a different tune about our condition. In other words, the human canvass is not as good as we think we are.

The Consequences: By telling people we believe “most people are good,” we might actually be harming our fellow man. We are harming people because they will not see the depths of their sinfulness in order to see their need for the Savior. Many people will begin to believe they are “good people,” and this belief will push them away from their desperate need to believe in Jesus Christ.

To Believers: The gospel requires us to critically analyze the content of our music. We can listen to any musical genre available, but we need to hear the words and understand the message of the artist. Then, we need to measure what the artist is singing about with Scripture to determine if we are able to accept or reject their worldview.

What does this mean for the believer who hears Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good?” It really depends on you. Maybe you should change the station because you could be influenced by this message. Maybe you can listen to the song with a vocal disclaimer that this song is theologically inaccurate to others who are listening. I would have no problem dancing to this song with my wife in the kitchen while changing the words to, “I believe most [aren’t] good!” My post is not designed to tell you how to live your life, but to show you how to think critically. Therefore, listen with a critical ear, and decide for yourself, your course of action.

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Why A Divorce Will Not Doom Your Future

The statistics on divorce in America might be alarming at first glance. While the divorce rate among Christ followers may be slightly lower than the national average, the church still sees its fair share of broken marriages. Many people know that divorce leads to a wake of hurt, brokenness, and confusion in the lives of the divorcing husband and wife, but children who experience the splitting of two parents are also negatively affected by such actions. Some statistics present a vivid reality for the possible discouraging future of children who experience this traumatic event. However, this data only paints one side of the equation, and misses how the gospel can impact people who have suffered from a divorce.

We need to first understand that this situation happens both inside and outside the church because we live in a fallen and broken world (Rom 3:23). Sin makes us messed up people, and in our raggedness, marriages fall apart due to a variety of issues like unfaithfulness and/or abuse. Yet, many people think because their marriages have been broken them and/or their children are doomed. On the flip side, many children who have experienced this scenario may feel insecure in life, their current marriage, or their future marriage.

While this post is purposed to be one of encouragement, divorce does have negative consequences for everyone who is involved. So please don’t leave this post thinking that a divorce will not adversely effect a family. Nevertheless, the repercussions from a separation should not stigmatize anyone as being a “child of divorced parents” or “a divorced person” for the rest of their lives. In other words, people should not be given an identity based on their past breakup or parents’ actions. For example, this identification could make kids believe, “Well, my parents are divorced so I guess I’m not going to be successful in life or marriage.” That type of insecure thinking is not true because many children who have experienced this scenario were able to move on and become successful adults, husbands, and wives.

If you are a parent or person who has suffered a divorce, be encouraged that you and your children are not doomed. Additionally, children of divorced parents, know that your future is not as bleak as some statistics might suggest. One’s fate is not sealed due to a divorce because everyone can experience hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, the world is broken and divorce happens, but Jesus came to save and redeem all people and things (Col 1:19-20). The gospel gives anyone who experiences a divorce a new identity in Christ. Faith in Jesus makes a person a new creation, and he will give all people the ability to live out that new life regardless of their past experiences (2 Cor 5:17). Therefore, children, parents, and adults who experience divorce do not have a hopeless future, but rather can have a hope filled future in Jesus.

While everyone involved will be emotionally, physically, and spiritually effected by divorce, Jesus Christ desires to give everyone hope to overcome these effects. In other words, there is a gospel hope that will prevent anyone from becoming a negative statistic in the wake of a divorce. Everyone should recognize from this post that a relationship with Christ changes the way we endure, understand, and overcome the negative circumstances of our lives (Phil 4:10-13). Christ, and Christ alone, provides the only hope for all our futures.

Therefore, be comforted if you have experienced the separation of your mother and father. You still have a future and hope in Jesus Christ. If you are a parent or adult who has painfully experienced a divorce, find rest knowing that Jesus Christ will take care of you and your children. We all must remember that Jesus died on the cross in order to save us from our brokenness. Moreover, when we reflect on the empty tomb, we are guaranteed a future hope regardless of our past and current circumstances. Believe in Jesus, and truly begin to live life to the fullest for the glory of God.

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Readers, I would like to hear from you. Please feel free to share any comments or insights in order to encourage others or the author.

3 Questions to Help Prevent Your Child from Leaving the Church

Children are like human sponges. They are constantly taking in everything they see and hear from us, but as sponges, something will inevitably happen. These little sponges will spill out all they have heard and seen to others. If you are a parent of little children like me, you have probably experienced this scenario before with one of your kids. Our youngest child loves to raise his hands in the air, as if he just won a gold medal at the Olympics, and screams with resounding joy, “I pooped today!” Cute? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely! Embarrassing when he does it in front of church members? Um…you decide. He is a human sponge after all.

Christian parents, we are all aware that our children soak in everything we project to them, but I’m not quite sure we truly understand the implications of these living, breathing sponges as it pertains to their involvement in Christ’s church. LifeWay Research recently posted an article about the drop out rate of young adults (see article here). The article revealed that 32% of those interviewed dropped out of church because church members were seen as being judgmental or hypocritical. Parents, we might be part of the problem for seeing the mass exodus of our children from the church.

To prove we might be part of the problem, ask yourself: Have I ever criticized the church in front of my children? Have I ever judged the style of worship or the charisma of the pastor while driving in the car home from church when my children were in the backseat? What about judgmentally gossiping about another church member or criticizing a church decision around the lunch table after service with my kids sitting there? Sometimes I fear we as parents in our hypocritical and judgmental conversations are driving a wedge in between our children and Christ’s church.

I am not saying we shouldn’t think critically about sermons or music when it comes to theology, but I am saying we should not present a critical spirit to our children by voicing everything we see wrong in the church–the bride of Christ. The bride, by the way, he shed his own blood to save and purchase for himself (Eph 5:25-27). Therefore, here are three questions to answer in front of your children in order to help them fall more in love with Christ and his church to help combat the mass exodus of young adults.

  1. What did God reveal to you? We live in a day where you can hear many preachers on the internet (some good and some not so good). One of the problems with access to a variety of online sermons is internet pastors are not your pastor. Therefore, we might be tempted to compare the sermon we heard on Sunday to another sermon we heard on the internet. We might pick a part all that the pastor said, didn’t say, and should have said. However, when you sit under biblical preaching, you should be listening with an open heart and expecting to hear what God has spoken through his Word. Instead of criticizing or comparing the preaching to others, talk about what God revealed to your heart. What did you take away? What did God show you about himself? What did the Bible say about something you were experiencing that week? When God’s Word is preached, God speaks, and he speaks to you each time. Talk about it in front of your kids.
  2. What do you see God doing in the local church? We live in a culture that criticizes nearly everyone and every institution. We are notorious for finding flaws in all of our experiences. No church is completely perfect, and we are not expected to be the perfect place of worship. Nevertheless, our imperfection as the bride of Christ points to the perfection we have received in Christ. Look for things that God is doing in your local church. Celebrate where you see God working in front of your kids. For example, highlight for your children when the church you attend is sending missionaries, reaching the lost, or serving each other with loving-kindness. By speaking highly of the church, your children will begin to fall more in love with the body of believers they see God working through and in for his glory.
  3. Where do you see the gospel at work in the lives of others? One of the greatest joys as a pastor and church member is seeing people grow in their walk with the Lord. When you see people growing in their relationship to God, try to acknowledge their transformation to your children. The gospel is life changing. When people believe in Jesus, their lives are truly transformed and being transformed into the image of Christ. Acknowledge the gospel’s power in the lives of others. Show your children how the gospel propels volunteers to serve children and youth with joy. Point out the man who gave his life to Christ, and the way he interacts with his wife and/or children because of it. Maybe point out how the gospel has turned you from being judgmental and hypocritical to compassionate and kindhearted. By pointing out the gospel’s impact in the lives of others, our children will observe the power of the gospel firsthand.

While teenagers and young adults are abandoning the church in droves, perhaps God can use us to point out all the ways we see God working in our lives and within our local churches to prevent them from leaving. Let us speak often and uncritically about God’s Word, goodness, grace, and power, and watch our children fall more in love with Jesus and his bride. May they love the church as much as, if not more than, their mothers and fathers.

Are there any additional questions you would like to add? Please feel free to share them with us in the comments section in order to encourage others.

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4 Reasons to Stay with the Southern Baptist Convention

On Wednesday, I arrived home around 12:30 am from our annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting. I fell into my bed both exhausted and exhilarated after a long two days of being in Birmingham, Alabama. My tiredness came due to spending hours sitting in chairs that brought nearly unbearable pain to my lumbar spine, and my joy came from knowing there remains a glimmer of hope for our SBC’s future. No matter what you have seen on social media over the last few months, this meeting was unlike any other I have ever attended.

Before I provide the reasons for my excitement, I want all my readers to know that we–Southern Baptists–are not perfect. We still have a plethora of issues to think through and strategies to develop in living out the gospel in our current cultural climate. We still have a problem with taming our tongues on social media. We have to overcome the lack of attendance by many younger pastors and some within our state leadership. Did I mention we aren’t perfect? Despite our imperfections and struggles as a convention, I would like to offer you four reasons you should stay in the SBC.

  1. Ceaseless Prayer: Our convention President, J. D. Greear, was kneeling on stage at the Pastors’ Conference praying for God’s wisdom as we prepared to go in session the following day. Even during the conference, moments of directed and intense prayer were orchestrated by leaders and messengers. From the outset, Greear stated, “The Southern Baptist Convention should be more like a prayer meeting with some business mixed into it.” The posture of prayer at this convention illustrates that we are seeking to move as like-minded believers not in our own power, but rather the power of God through his Holy Spirit. A ceaseless attitude of prayer by both leadership and messengers provides us much hope for the future of the SBC.
  2. Gospel Emphasis: The theme for this convention reads, “The Gospel Above All.” We had to address many issues facing Southern Baptist life, but we seemed to address them with the gospel as our guide. The most powerful part of the meeting was the report provided by our International Mission Board (IMB). The IMB, due to its gospel propulsion to the nations, is the heart beat of what we do together as Southern Baptists. And, the heart beat is strong! As a collective fellowship of churches, we are able to have a greater reach to the nations. A further reach than any one church could have on its own.
  3. Open Communication: Prior to our gathering, social media platforms were incredibly hostile to SBC brothers and sisters in Christ. Twitter alone was like watching friendly fire by artillery barrages off target. In other words, we as Southern Baptists have nearly perfected the art of “dog eat dog” on social media. However, the convention was not nearly has hostile as portrayed on Twitter. The discussion panels allowed moments of heartfelt dialogue about a variety of “hot button” issues. We listened to people discuss their views concerning race and the value of women for God’s mission. These panelists allowed us to listen and learn with a spirit of gentleness, humility, and openness. Open and honest conversations like these will provide a promising future for the SBC.
  4. Noticeable Joy: We had fun at the annual meeting. Were there some hot debates? Yes. Were there some red faces? A few times. However, we also had some moments of laughter. In the past, these business meetings have been just that: all business. This convention contained a few comical comments about the parliamentary process, and we heard playful banter between the President and presenters about college football teams. In other words, this year we weren’t a bunch of stuffy, “Bible Bashing Baptists.” We enjoyed the company of our brothers and sisters in Christ–even while conducting business. I think we owe this to our current leadership because humor has an indispensable way of breaking down barriers and enabling people to experience joy with each other.

Do we have a long way to go on issues within our convention? To this question, I give a resounding, “Yes!” Some people might contemplate making the decision to leave the SBC, but due to these four reasons, I think acting on these thoughts would be unwise. I want to encourage all churches and church leaders that we are in a new season as Southern Baptists. A season that might be unlike any season we have experienced before because the cultural climate of our convention has subtly shifted. The shift, I think, is in the right direction. We are a people of prayer. We are a people who hold the gospel “above all.” We are engaging in open and honest dialogue with each other in person. We are experiencing noticeable joy with each other at our annual business meeting.

As Southern Baptists, may God’s Spirit continue to enable us to be stronger together in order to reach more for Christ.

Parents, Stop Raising Quitters

I stood with my mouth wide open at the baseball field. It was a moment of both shock and sadness. Our son’s baseball team was determining if we were going to forfeit the next game because the team we were playing was better than us. Forfeit a game because we might get beat (“humiliated” was the word actually used). My heart sank for these boys who had given their all this baseball season. My stomach churned because of the lessons that were being taught. Lessons like quitting, giving up, and you aren’t as good as the other guys (talk about a self-esteem drainer).

What has happened to us in America? What have we become as coaches and parents? What will be the implications of this type of parenting/coaching on our children in the future? Only time will provide the answers to these questions, but I think we might see a generation that will grow up to become pansies who can’t handle difficult situations. They won’t know how to take on challenges. When things get tough, they will just quit. They will have low self-esteem because they will constantly be comparing themselves to others who are better than them.

Parents, WE HAVE TO STOP THIS! Out of all the parents standing there, I was the only one to speak up and say, “Play the game!” Some people might wonder why I spoke up to play a game that we might lose, but there are greater lessons to be learned than simply winning baseball games. Here are four lessons that we teach our children when facing difficult situations where they might lose:

  1. Our children will work to get better. A fact of life is that there are people in the world who are better than us. I am a pastor, and I know other pastors who are better than me. I enjoy doing CrossFit, and I could give you a list of people who are better at CrossFit than me. I am a PhD student, and I know some students who are much smarter and better writers than me. Guess what? Just because people are better than me, doesn’t mean I don’t preach, CrossFit, or study for my PhD. It actually does the opposite. These people push me to get better in life. To put it in context, let your children do things in life where people are better than them because that will actually make them become better. If we shelter our kids from people who are better we are planting soil for them to grow into pansies who can’t handle life’s challenges.
  2. Rally the troops for victory. One of the biggest problems in our American society is that we make decisions based upon our perceived results. I only know of one being who knows the future: God. The coaching group was making an assumption that we not only were going to lose, but also that we had already lost. We haven’t played the game yet, so we don’t truly know the outcome. However, nobody remembers when the powerhouse beats the underdog, but everyone talks about when the underdog beats the power house. Why? Because on any day, the game starts at zero and can be won by either team. Think of all the great movies based on true stories like Rudy, Remember the Titans, or The Pistol. We remember and celebrate when David beats Goliath. When our children take on difficult situations, victory is sweeter when they have to work even harder to earn it.
  3. A lesson on humility. Sometimes the opposite might happen. Our children may get beat by a better team. May I let you in on a little secret? Sometimes you and your children are going to get beat at something in life. Our kids aren’t going to get a job or a promotion or an award, and that’s life. Welcome to the world. If we don’t teach our children now how to deal with getting beat, our children are going to walk around like arrogant people. However, their arrogance will prevent them from dealing with being defeated. As a result, their lives will turn out to be disastrous. Do we really wonder why our children are dealing with certain behavioral disorders? Maybe we should look in the mirror and see that we have not trained them how to deal with getting beat in this world.
  4. A lesson about self-confidence. I still think this old saying has some truth to it, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose it’s how you play the game.” As a competitor, winning and losing does matter. However, these outcomes are not the ONLY thing that matters. We want to teach our children to fight and compete, but we don’t want to make life only about winners and losers. We want to teach children that no matter the outcome as long as they gave everything they had they should hold their heads high. This could apply to any results that our children bring home. When our kids bring a report card home and it has a “C” on it, we ask, “Did you do the very best you could?” Their answer determines their self-confidence. As long as they are giving their “very best,” we are proud of them and tell them to keep their head up. Of course, we coach them to move beyond what they “think” their best is, but we still believe that their work ethic and willingness to take on a difficult task is a reason for building their confidence.

To conclude this story, I’m proud to say that the boys stood up and said, “WE WANT TO PLAY!” That moment my heart went from sinking to jumping and my stomach went from churning to whirling with excitement. Parents, we must allow our children to face some difficult scenarios in life because these situations will teach them valuable lessons.

Are there any additional lessons you would like to add? Please feel free to share them in the comments section to encourage others.

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So, You Had a Bad Preaching Day? Here Are 4 Ways to Bounce Back

It never fails. Some Sundays you walk down from the pulpit thinking the Holy Spirit’s power was with you in that sermon. You captured the audience’s attention. Your exegesis of the Scripture seemed faithful to the text. Your illustrations connected the biblical text with the lives of your listeners. You walked away with confidence knowing that the Holy Spirit helped you through the difficult task we call preaching.

It never fails. Some Sundays you walk down from the pulpit in shame. You felt like you were forcing yourself to finish that sermon. You were beating yourself up as someone within the congregation walked by saying, “I really enjoyed that sermon, preacher.” Deep down you felt like you should be apologizing to them for not being on top of your game. You replay the sermon over and over all day in your head. Something just wasn’t right, and you didn’t feel the same power of the Holy Spirit like you had in the past.

Many preachers can identify with both of these scenarios. To be honest, I have dealt with these in my small preaching tenure. The good news for all of us is we are not alone. We have the best news in the world. We have the life changing news found only in Jesus Christ. However, many of us can become fearful when we have “bad preaching days” because we know eternal life could hang in the balance for some people sitting under our teaching.

No matter how long you have been preaching, I am sure you could tell gobs of stories about each of these scenarios. My purpose in writing this post is to help you recover from these days where you felt that something wasn’t right. Here are four ways we can bounce back from bad preaching days in ministry:

  1. Remember God is sovereign. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves as preachers. We arrogantly think our sermon delivery is the true source of power. I think we might be adopting the American Dream in our preaching approach. God doesn’t need us. He decides to use us, but he doesn’t need us. Our preaching is not dependent on ourselves. Our preaching is dependent on God to work and act in our frailty as his redeemed children. You think you had a bad day. Your delivery couldn’t be any worse than Jonah’s sermon, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4)! Yet, God used this rinky dink sermon from a bitter prophet to save an entire nation! God is sovereign, and we need to remember that God will work just as much in the good days as he will in the bad days of our preaching.
  2. Pray for next week. Sometimes I think God lets his preachers have bad days because it reminds us of our dependence on him. How many of us become more reliant on our gifts rather than the Gift Giver? I think there are many reasons we have bad weeks (lack of preparation, not taking care of our bodies, unrepentant sin, not managing our calendars, family issues, etc), but after a bad sermon, we can begin to pray for God’s help for the following week. A bad preaching day should make us yearn for God’s power through his Holy Spirit the next time we preach. Therefore, we recover from bad preaching by praying.
  3. You are your worst critic. We know what we meant to say. We know what we wanted to say. We know whether the divine unction was or wasn’t there. However, the people in the pew have no idea most of the time. We have to remember that for many of them this is the first time they have seen this text or heard this message. People in the pews are simply trying to process what you are saying. We are overly critical on ourselves because we take our calling seriously, and we should! We need to remember that while we always strive to get better at our calling, we can be our own worst nightmares in our preaching ministry. Get better by examining your preaching, but your people aren’t critiquing you as hard as you are critiquing yourself. To put it another way, aim to be the best preacher for God’s glory, but don’t overly criticize yourself when you have an off day. God’s grace is greater!
  4. God’s Word always works. For faithful preachers of God’s Word, this should be our most encouraging way to recover after experiencing a bad preaching day. As Coach Boone said in Remember the Titans, “[My six plays] are just like Novocaine; give them time, and they always work.” God’s Word is just like Coach Boone’s six plays. Preach it as faithful as you can even on a bad preaching day, and God’s Word will do all the work. His Word is alive, active, piercing and discerning (Heb 4:12). His own Word says that it will not return to him void (Isa 55:11). While you may have had a bad preaching day, God’s Word never has a bad day. Stay faithful and his Word will get the work done.

As preachers, we need to remember that we are not perfect. Our task is to point people to the perfect One. This reality of our frailty means we are going to have bad preaching days. Hopefully, we have more good ones rather than bad ones. Nevertheless, when we do have bad ones, I pray that you will come back to this post to remember God’s goodness by reflecting on these four ways for recovering after the preaching event.

Are there any additional ways you recover from bad preaching days that are not mentioned? Please feel free to share them in the comments section to encourage others.

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Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne: A Must Read for Church Leaders

Larry Osborne. Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 221 pp. Paperback. ISBN 9780310324545. $16.99.

A few months ago, I was sitting down with one of my pastor coaches, and he mentioned that I needed to read Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. For the record, I know this book is a bit on the older side for a book review, but I was fighting in Afghanistan as a Marine Officer when this book was published. The book maybe older in date, but the contents within this book are still applicable and relevant for any church leader today. This book review will summarize the contents of the book, make a few generic comments, and offer my recommendation. 

Osborne’s stated purpose for writing this work reads, “When faced with differing agendas and clashing perspectives that every team must work through, sticky teams know how to deal with the issues at hand and still come out united in purpose and vision, with a genuine camaraderie undamaged by strong differences” (p. 19). In order to substantiate this thesis, Osborne divides his book into four parts with part one being the foundation for the other three. 

Osborne begins with his essential concept of unity as the foundation for his work. He defines unity with three components: 1) doctrinal unity, 2) respect and friendship, and 3) philosophical unity (p. 28). Without these factors, our teams will quickly become disgruntled and ineffective. I highly recommend that you take your time reading the first two chapters of this book because if you miss this foundation, you will be unable to effectively implement the other three parts. Therefore–and I think Osborne would agree with me–unity of a team seems to be the main theme for which the rest of this book builds upon in the other three parts. 

Parts two, three, and four are the pragmatics associated with his ideological concept of unity. To put it another way, unity as the main thrust of his argument can be accomplished, maintained, and protected when we identify our own church organizational charts (Part 1), our ability to align everyone on our team (Part 2), and clearly communicate to our teams and people (Part 3). These parts will help you put meat on the bones of his unity concept. 

Osborne’s book will hopefully encourage you and get you to think about how to create unity on your leadership team. The versatility of this book should be highly noted. It does not matter if you are elder lead, deacon run (although this might be problematic biblically), staff lead, or board led, the contents presented in this book will help you think through and build unity with your leaders. The versatility of this book is probably the reason I was recommended to read it by my pastoral coach nine years after it was published. 

Additionally, Osborne discusses some “hot topic” issues for church leadership. My staff and I have had some great discussions talking about the concepts presented by the author. How do you handle staff salaries? How do you prioritize the various aspects of ministry? How do you know what organizations to support and what organizations to pass on when they ask for donations? What information about church members should a church leader know and not know? Osborne will let you know his position on each question, but he will not push his agenda on his readers. He will present his position and let you and your leaders determine how you will proceed with the information he presents. 

To some who are overly pragmatic, this might be a disappointing reality about the contents presented. Some pastors and leaders just want a “how to” manual for building leaders and teams. This book will not deliver on those expectations (the book is not meant to do that, by the way). You or your leadership team will have to decide how you will adopt these concepts in your current church setting. So, while some may see this as disappointing, I find it highly satisfying as a young church leader. Of course, Osborne gives some principles to use in dealing with fierce church battles, aligning staff, and making changes, but the tone of his writing is more recommendation rather than forceful intrusion on your leadership context and style. To me, this reflection is another strength. 

Therefore, I highly recommend that you get your hands on this book in the near future. If you have read it in the past, pick it up and read it again. This book is like mining for gold. The work is hard, but in the end you will be glad you got the shiny golden nugget. Osborne’s Sticky Teams will be a work I come back to on a yearly basis.

Amazon has this book available for $14.75

If you have a book you would like me to review, feel free to send me a message through this website. If you are an author of a current book and want some further publicity, contact me through the website and we can discuss you sending me a copy of your book to review and share.

Jeremy Bell

3 Concepts to Teach Children About the Easter Bunny

Our oldest daughter asked me a pointed question this week. She inquired, “Dad, why do people make a big deal about the Easter bunny? Isn’t Easter about Jesus?” I cannot begin to describe the feelings of joy that pierced my heart when this question left her mouth and infiltrated my ear canal. I was thankful she recognized the distinction between a biblical understanding of Easter with the cultural Easter norms being celebrated around us.

From the outset, I am not anti-Easter bunny guy. Please don’t accuse me of being like an Easter bunny Luddite. However, Christian parents have to think about raising our children by navigating the biblical and cultural meanings of special days like Easter. I want to provide you with three concepts that you should teach your children about the Easter bunny.

  1. The Easter bunny is not real. Some parents might think this is a harsh reality to teach their children. However, I think we should be honest with our children about the Easter bunny. Just because the Easter bunny is not real does not mean we can’t have fun participating in Easter egg hunts or taking pictures. We should allow our children to enjoy their imaginations, but we don’t have to connect their imaginations to biblical truth. In other words, we don’t make Easter about the Easter bunny. Rather we should make Easter about Jesus Christ. We need to highlight the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to our children not a cute bunny. As we highlight Jesus, we can have fun with all the Easter festivities in our communities (I am indebted to John Piper for his discussion of Santa Clause in a recent podcast for my thoughts on this subject; see his comments here).
  2. Get into gospel conversations at community events. I will unashamedly admit that I use my children as “gospel bait.” The Easter bunny is a cultural conception to our neighbors and community who may not know the gospel of Jesus Christ. To put it another way, many people may not know that Christians have a different reason for celebrating and remembering what Christ has done for us on Easter, but many people in our communities and neighborhoods will gather to hunt eggs and see some poor soul dressed up in a white bunny costume. Teach your children that these are perfect events to share their faith and invite others to church. Training our children for cultural engagements and evangelism is another part of our instruction and raising them as faithful followers. You will be encouraged the first time that one of your children beats you at inviting someone to church. (I can’t wait for the day when one of our children invites the poor soul in the bunny costume).
  3. Make worship at a local church top priority. It amazes me that so many people can make plans to attend a neighborhood Easter egg hunt or find out where the cutest Easter bunny pictures will be taken and not make it to church. People will spend hours in the cold, rain, or sunshine to see their kids joyfully get eggs or take an Easter bunny picture, but they won’t spend an hour and fifteen minutes gathering with the body that was bought by the blood of Christ. We should teach our children that we can plan to have fun at these events, but Good Friday Services and Sunday morning worship gatherings are going to take top priority in our schedule. We remind them that the Easter bunny is not real, but we serve a risen and real Lord, Jesus Christ. We will devote our lives to Christ, and if it comes between a pretend Easter bunny and worshiping the resurrected Savior, we will choose the Savior every time.

I hope these three concepts are helpful as you seek to raise your children in our American society under the authority of God’s Word. By teaching our children that the Easter bunny is not real we are able to highlight the true meaning of Easter, which is Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. As we keep Jesus at the center, we are able to have fun with our children, but teach them how to engage with the culture around them in a more biblical and faithful way. Work hard at teaching them to be little evangelists, but also faithful worshipers during this Easter season. 

Chan’s Letters to the Church Reviewed

Francis Chan. Letters to the Church. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2018. 219 pp. Paperback. ISBN 978-0830776580. $16.99.

Francis Chan shocked the evangelical world when he stepped away from Cornerstone, a megachurch platform, and moved with his family to Asia. The shock was that Chan stepped away willingly not because of some moral failure or internal scandal. He walked away from the church he planted in 1994 because of a stirring in his soul. Out of the wake of this life-changing move, Chan has written this book to “point out areas where the Church is lacking” (p. 211). When Chan talks about pointing out the flaws of the Church, he primarily focuses his work on the church in America.

Chan’s book was written with a tone of complete humility. He does not want to condemn the church in America because he loves the church (p. 22). However, he loves the Bride of Christ with such passion that he desires to help point out some of the ways the church might be displeasing God from the Scriptures. Chan desires for any of his writings to be checked by the Word of God (p. 24). In other words, the author desires to bring to light issues while maintaining a posture of humility. His humility becomes more prominent by his own admittance that he contributed to some of the issues he points out in his book (p. 44).

The author begins by providing a theology of the church from Scripture. His main emphasis is on the church as sacred. As sacred, the Bride of Christ requires that all members are to be “devoted” (p. 55). The motif of devotion really drives the rest of his understanding of the church as a place of worship, but also as a family. The family dynamic of the church seems to be Chan’s emphasis in his newer model. The family dynamic he proposes is one of both love, unity, and service.

Chan concludes his book with a note to pastors, a theology of suffering, an empowerment of children and youth, and his model for church out of his reflections. Chan concludes with his “afterword” on killing pride from a posture of complete humility. Throughout the book a reader can sense the pain and the love for the church and the people within the church as he speaks this exhortation.

I admire Chan’s humility in this work. I think the church should always been in a posture of reformation or change (p. 190). Chan seeks to change the consumer mindset that has intruded into the Bride of Christ in America. He does present some problems that he has observed, and he provides a solution through his own model of ministry for those problems. We must not be resistant to change as the church because we are always changing to become more like Christ and more like the Scripture we hold as both innerant and authoritative. Chan doesn’t propose a one-size fits all model for the church, but a way to think about how to be a more biblical church in America.

While this book does well in presenting some of the problems within the church, I want my readers to be aware of two concerns I have with the content. First, sometimes Chan’s writing can be more experiential rather than biblical. I don’t want to downplay his theology because I think his view of the church is correct. However, he does posit his arguments for the church through many of his experiences overseas. His experiences seem to indicate that the persecuted church is better off than the church in America because of our freedoms. He creates this “fear of missing out” in America with his experiences. The Bride of Christ-no matter where it is located-has problems that are in need of change. We all must be cautious of elevating experience with special revelation-even unintentionally. The Bible explains and helps us understand our experiences and feelings.

Second, Chan concludes with what his new model of ministry looks like in the present. I think we must be careful to heed Chan’s warning that this is the way he is working at doing church, but he would not claim this as the ONLY way to do church. My concern is that some reading may scrap the whole church in America to do their own church design like Chan. Chan can do this because I think he is strong theologically, but I fear that others might launch this same model with a minimal understanding of theological clarity or accuracy leading to heresy. Some may be able to reform in new ways, but others might have to think through solutions to Chan’s observations in other methods for established churches. My question is, “Can we reform without abandoning ship?” I think we can by God’s grace and the power of the Spirit.

Nevertheless, this book is worth you to read. I would recommend it to any believer who wants to think more biblically about the church and the issues that are plaguing the church in America. May we prayerfully search the Lord, his Word, and be guided by the Spirit to change the consumerist mindset within God’s bride. May we become more unified in our congregations to reach more people in our communities and across the globe. I encourage you to read Chan’s work with an open mind and heart. Reform is needed, but the Scriptures are our standard for any reform.

Amazon has this book available for $13.72