Too Busy Not To Read

I love to ask people what they’ve read recently that they enjoyed and would recommend. The wide array of responses I get back are always interesting. But about half the time I ask this I get back something like, “I haven’t read anything lately. I don’t have time to read right now. I’m really busy.” It’s amazing how we can find time for TV shows, movies, Netflix, social media, bad football (Chicago Bears), and plenty of other things. Think about your past month and year. Outside of work and sleep, what did you fill your time with the most?

Now, I love everything I just listed above and take plenty of time in a week to watch through some of my ever growing Netflix queue or watch bad football (Chicago Bears). But I also have made it a priority to read. I once heard from a professor that the only difference between you now and you in five years are the books you read. I agree with this. I believe reading challenges us, entertains us and grows us. Reading grows us for today and prepares us for what is to come in the future. The argument could be made that reading is so important to our personal development that it is too important for us not to read.

One of my favorite explanations of how little time it takes each day to work through books comes from John Piper in his book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. While this book is written for pastors (and please forgive the complementarian book title) I believe this section of the book applies to all people that want to grow in their personal lives and further develop themselves in any subject. Here is what John Piper writes,

“Suppose you read slowly, say about 250 words a minute (as I do). This means that in twenty minutes you can read five thousand words. An average book has about four hundred words to a page. So you could read about twelve-in-a-half pages in twenty minutes. Suppose you discipline yourself to read a certain author or topic twenty minutes a day, six days a week, for a year. That would be 312 x 12.5 pages for a total of 3,900 pages. This means you could read fifteen books like that in one year” (80).

Twenty minutes a day. That’s all it takes. How many hours a day or in a week do you watch sports? How many hours watching tv shows? Or movies? Or cruising Facebook and Twitter? Again, these are not terrible things. I watch plenty of tv and sports, but I have made it a priority to read at a minimum of 20 minutes each day for the past few years. If you set aside only 20 minutes at some point just think how much you could grow in a year if you were able to read 15 books.

I want to challenge you to start this today. I had a boss who when I shared this section of this book with him he told me once a day at a certain time to come into his office, remind him it was that time and he would stop whatever he was doing and would read for 20 minutes. Maybe you don’t have the luxury to do that at work, but what about before work or after work? Or after the kids go to bed? Or when you go to bed? Challenge yourself to grow. It doesn’t take much time, and it is too important for you not to read.

How many books would you like to read in 2017? My goal is 75 this year. I’d love to hear yours!

Churches Partnering Together by Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks

Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks, Churches Partnering Together. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 176pp. $15.99

Great kingdom work is being done all across communities, cities and the world, but how often are churches looking to one another to partner together to better reach these people and areas? Many churches either think they can go it alone in the work or many churches believe they don’t have the time or resources to pursue a ministry need they see. Through a biblical lens, Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks have written Churches Partnering Together to look at this very question and show how it is important for churches to partner together to better reach our communities and reach the nations. Whether a church is large or small, churches must be pursuing kingdom partnerships with other churches to create unity and achieve ministry goals.

Many churches haven’t pursued partnerships with other churches in their own cities or across the country and world. This may be due to a belief that they aren’t big enough to help or they may believe that they can’t partner with a church that doesn’t align with them in all ways doctrinally. Bruno and Dirks start from the beginning to set up that this is an incorrect way to look at biblical church partnerships and do so with a case study of Paul’s ministry to the Jews and Gentiles. “You might be surprised to find out what Paul actually spent the most time, energy, and relational captial pursuing during his first decade of ministry: he worked to build a partnership of Gentile churches to support the struggling Jewish Christians in Jerusalem” (Loc 168). Bruno and Dirks spend the time in Churches Partnering Together walking through how Paul established and pursued biblical partnerships with first-century churches to support this shared mission.

Bruno and Dirks establish what a kingdom partnership is and how they define it. They say, “A kingdom partnership is a gospel-driven relationship between interdependent local churches that pray, work, and share resources together strategically to glorify God through kingdom-advancing goals they could not accomplish alone” (Loc 209). Through this, Bruno and Dirks believe that no church should compromise its gospel integrity for a partnership. But also a church shouldn’t not consider partnering with another church simply because of a doctrinal difference. Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches can partner together just as Evangelical, Southern Baptist and Assembly of God churches can partner together. If there is a shared mission and vision of how to bring effective gospel ministry better to a city, then if there isn’t any gospel compromising measures there are no reasons that churches with different doctrines shouldn’t partner together. They should.

Here is how Bruno and Dirks show Paul’s ministry strategy toward kingdom partnership time and time again. “While the Jerusalem apostles focused on reaching Jews, Paul and Barnabas would go across the Roman empire, planting churches among the Gentiles. (…) Once Paul had evangelized a city, established a Christian community, strengthened the saints in the church, and raised up leaders to guide the church, he called the church toward partnership in God’s greater kingdom” (Loc 319-327) Paul saw partnership as a way for churches to come together and show Christian unity as directed in John 17.

This is something all churches should be considering today in their own cities. No church will reach all people in one city, but many churches either believe they can be all things to all people or they simply have never thought about it and more than likely are not very evangelistic. Paul displayed kingdom partnership and unity from church to church that he planted. This must be a priority in our churches today as well. “When churches work side by side with one another, they are reminded of their union with one another in Christ” (Loc 354).

Bruno and Dirks do a good job of reminding the reader that kingdom partnerships must be focused and built on the gospel alone. Many churches and partnerships today have been formed around something that is not purely the gospel. Not to say that many churches are not doing good work in their community, but they are more focused on helping people by giving them food, clothing, new ideas on how to be better parents and many other things but not giving them the gospel. Bruno and Dirks say, “We’re always trying to add something to God’s grace. Soon, the issues that drive our churches (such as strengthening families, pursuing social justice, or even studying the Bible) can start to take on gospel-level importance in our minds” (Loc 468-477). The gospel must be the foundation and building point of any partnership and must influence and guide what the partnership will look like and do. The gospel should not just be an add-on at the end, it must be the center piece.

For any pastor or any church that is wanting to understand kingdom partnerships and how a church could begin to start partnerships in their city with other churches or around the nation and world, Churches Partnering Together is a fantastic resource to consider reading. Bruno and Dirks dive deeper in the latter chapters with more of a “how-to” guide in beginning and establishing church partnerships towards gospel mission. This book fired me up to think uniquely how churches in my city could show unity as well as pursue greater gospel penetration in the hearts and lives of the people in my town. Kingdom partnership is so much bigger than simply clothing or feeding or classes on bettering a marriage. While the efforts of many churches are noble, church partnerships have the potential to change lives and change entire cities for Christ. Check out Churches Partnering Together if you want to have a passion and desire to change your city with other churches.

This is an honest review written in exchange of a review copy of Churches Partnering Together from Crossway publications.

A Little Bit of Reading Goes A Long Way

One of my ongoing goals for each year is to read 60 books in the year. I put together a reading list, non-fiction and fiction, for each year, and I get to work. One of the books I read last year had a chapter that focused on the importance of reading to our lives, and how this has become an area of neglect to many leaders and people. Here is a paragraph that I have continued to return to see the power of reading even for just a little bit each day.

Suppose you read slowly, say about 250 words a minute (as I do). This means that in twenty minutes you can read about five thousand words. An average book has about four hundred words to a page. So you could read about twelve-and-a-half pages in twenty minutes. Suppose you discipline yourself to read a certain author or topic twenty minutes a day, six days a week, for a year. That would be 312 times 12.5 pages for a total of 3,900 pages. Assume that an average book is 250 pages long. This means you could read fifteen books like that in one year. (Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals, 80)

Reading makes a difference in who we are and how we grow as people. I firmly believe that leaders are readers and readers are leaders. Over the next 50 days I am going to challenge myself to read at a minimum of 20 minutes a day to get this pattern placed into my day now as life will never have a time period that will be slower and any easier to start a habit.

Consider making this a goal for yourself as well and join me.

 

The Obedient Servant

In Jesus, God’s compassion is revealed as suffering with us in obedience. Jesus is not a courageous hero whose act of emptying and humbling himself earns adoration and praise. He is not a super social worker, a super doctor, or a super helper. He is not a great hero who performs acts of self-denial that no one can imitate. Jesus is neither a spiritual giant nor a superstar whose compassion makes us jealous and creates in us the competitive desire to get as far, high, or deep as he did.

No, Jesus is the obedient servant who hears the call and desires to respond even when it leads him to pain and suffering. This desire is not to experience pain, but to give his full undivided attention to the voice of his beloved Father.

-Henri Nouwen, Compassion

Brothers, Let Us Pray

How astonishing it is that God wills to do His work through people. It is doubly astonishing that He ordains to fulfill His plans by being asked to do so by us. (…) I was amazed once to hear a seminary graduate say how adequate he felt for the ministry after his years of schooling. This was supposed to be a compliment to the school. The reason this amazed me is that the greatest theologian and missionary and pastor who ever lived cried out, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). Not because he was a bungler but because the awful calling of emitting the fragrance of eternal life for some and eternal death for others was a weight he could scarcely bear. A pastor who feels competent in himself to produce eternal fruit–which is the only kind that matters–knows neither God nor himself. A pastor who does not know the rhythm of desperation and deliverance must have his sights only on what man can achieve.

Apart from prayer, all our scurrying about, all our talking, all our study amounts to “nothing.” For most of us the voice of self-reliance is ten times louder than the bell that tolls for the hours of prayer. (…) Both our flesh and our culture scream against spending an hour on our knees beside a desk piled with papers. It is un-American to be so impractical as to devote oneself to prayer and meditation two hours a day. And sometimes I fear that our seminaries conform to this deadly pragmatism that stresses management and maneuvering as ways to get things done with a token mention of prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit. Refuse to believe that the daily hours Luther and Wesley and Brainerd and Judson spent in prayer are idealistic dreams of another era.

-John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals