Thinking Out Loud

July 6, 2015

Christian Leadership is both Art and Science

The Leadership theme is a big part of the Christian portion of the internet. Podcasts and blogs by names you’d recognize garner a huge following; names such as Michael Hyatt, Rich Birch, Carey Nieuwhof, John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Tony Morgan, Jenni Catron, Brad Lomenick and Ron Edmondson, just to name a few that I can personally recommend.

One of the challenges faced by leaders is succession plans; when to pass the torch and to whom it should be passed.

This weekend at Christianity 201, we ran this article by someone I consider a statesman among Christian leaders in Canada, Brian StillerBrian Stiller; former President of Youth for Christ Canada, former President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, former President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and now Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance. You can read more about him here.

What makes what follows so interesting is that it was written in 1987. It’s still very timely. It’s a theme that was echoed in an interview that I did as an aspiring Christian journalist with Brian around the same time. He spoke with me about the mavericks who founded many iconic Christian organizations in the post-World War II era, and how in the next generation, the maverick spirit was replaced by managers in maintenance mode.

This is an excerpt of a longer article in an EFC communications piece, The Sundial.

When we fail to pass the torch

As we look at churches and organizations today, we can see that there are many in need of torch passing. But either the senior leader desperately holds on too long with no attempt to train or give opportunity to the younger, or the tension produces so much conflict that the younger leader heads off to some other more flexible opportunity. Out of it all, energy and vision are suppressed. This leads to an increasing loss of touch with reality and a lack of clear goals and effective strategy.

How can the torch be passed?

There is a wonderful example in the Old Testament of the passing of the torch – from Moses to Joshua.

The announcement, “Moses, my servant, is dead”, boomed out across the tents in the valley. What would happen now? many wondered. Fortunately for the people of Israel, Moses had carefully nurtured and developed a younger leader – Joshua.

What Moses did then lends powerful ideas to this generation.

Leadership includes different styles

Moses recognized that leadership emerges out of different styles. Whereas he was a crusader, Joshua was a manager.

Moses was angered by the treatment of his kinsfolk. Later he defended some young women who were being harassed while tending their sheep. Ultimately his crusader instinct led him to say yes to God’s call to lead the people out of Egypt.

How different Joshua was. Right from the beginning we see his obedience. Never is there conflict between himself and Moses. There was no sign of trouble because of a strident spirit or a self-centered personality.

Moses didn’t look for someone identical to himself. A different style was needed. Moses’ and Joshua’s backgrounds, personalities, styles, means of operation and public profiles were vastly different. Yet each was a leader and each, from his base of strength, was used by God in a particular way and particular time.

Different times call for different styles

It’s easy to be trapped into believing in a “best” form of leadership. My generation has grown up thinking its cloth must be cut from a certain model. Since World War II church leadership has been characterized as aggressive, charismatic, individualistic and outgoing. This view of leadership, however, has been typecast from a specific time and culture. It’s time we looked for other models.

Moses was a restless and dominating figure who led his people out of bondage and defined the basis of the community by his special contact with God. How different was Joshua! Learning from his tutor, Moses, he took the patterns and ideas expressed by his predecessor and molded them into a working society. Each leader was competent but their styles were different.

Passing the torch is inevitable

It’s not always easy to make the transition from one generation to the next. My generation has lived with the “long shadow” syndrome. The long shadow occurs when a key senior leader, often a creative and crusading “Moses”, continues for so long that his or her shadow blankets the one who is following. And the up and coming leader never gets an opportunity to nurture his or her own vision. Instead, the potential leader gets trapped by serving the older and never really develops the fine edges of his or her own leadership.

Managing Moses’ ideas

Joshua became the manager of Moses’ ideas. And how necessary it is that crusaders nurture and train managers to put their ideas into order and practice. Joshua succeeded because he refused to succumb to the weakness which plagues all managers: maintaining the status quo. Rather, he nurtured his vision and risked beyond the borders of Moses

July 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List


A Happy Independence Day to our U.S. readers and a one-day belated Happy Canada Day to readers in the land north of the 49th. On with the linkage…

When not playing one of the 820 Solitaire variants while listening to sermon podcasts, Paul Wilkinson blogs at at Thinking Out Loud, edits the devotional blog Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

April 9, 2014

Wednesday Link List

New Pews

I am a linkoholicSo, if I go to see one of the many faith-focused movies currently running, can I skip church that weekend? While you ponder that, here’s this week’s link-o-rama:  Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the link list’s benefactor.

Paul Wilkinson’s writing the rest of the week is made possible by readers at Thinking Out Loud and at C201, and by viewers like you.

Between Services - Sacred Sandwich

Above: After a forever away from posting something new, Sacred Sandwich awoke as from a giant sleep.

Below: This is from the Abandoned Pics Twitter feed: @AbandonedPics and is a wooden church somewhere in Russia. 

Click the respective images to link. (Or the irreverent ones.)

Abandoned Wooden Church in Russia

December 9, 2012

Finding Buried Treasure Online: Speaker Videos

Actually, this treasure is not exactly buried, but the number of views indicates that not many are aware of it.

Naomi Zacharias Liberty ConvocationThe YouTube videos in question are posted by Liberty University and are best accessed by typing “Liberty Convocation.” Apparently they use the word convocation differently than I do. In my part of the world, a convocation is an annual event that usually involves a graduation of students. For Liberty it is a weekly assembly, a definition backed up by

The other item here worth mentioning is that I tend to think of Liberty University as a somewhat conservative institution. But their list of speakers includes some popular favorites, including Kyle Idleman, Francis Chan, Pete Wilson, Ken Davis, Jon Acuff, Andy Andrews, David Platt, Steven Furtick, Jim Cymbala, Eric Metaxas, Wess Stafford, and a powerful message by Phil Vischer.  Last night we listened to Naomi Zacharias McNeil*, director of Wellspring and daughter of Ravi Z. 

I am determined to listen to all of these eventually. Tune in to hear what today’s emerging next-generation authors and pastors and Christian leaders have to say to the authors and pastors and Christian leaders of tomorrow.

*use this link as a starting point if you’re not finding the channel. The channel includes a number of music-related things; typing “Liberty convocation” is your better search bet.

April 22, 2012

Tributes to Chuck Colson

Christian journalists and bloggers pay tribute to Christian author and Prison Fellowship founder Charles (Chuck) Colson:

David Shuringa at Think Christian

Colson’s legacy is enormous. Convicted in 1974 as part of the Watergate scandal, Colson – then White House special counsel – was sent to federal prison. Paroled in 1975, Colson began Prison Fellowship the following year, helping to put prison ministry on the church’s radar. When society was saying, “Lock ’em up and throw away the key,” Colson was echoing Hebrews 13:3: “Remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” He reminded the church of Jesus’ words: “I was in prison and you came to visit me.” No one can think of prison ministry without Chuck Colson coming quickly to mind.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Christianity Today

In many ways, Colson’s life encapsulated the eclectic nature of evangelicalism. His example shaped how evangelicals would promote ministry and social justice, evangelism and ecumenicism, cultural and political engagement, radio and writing, and scholarship and discipleship. 

Ginny Dent Brant at Christian Post

In November of 2009, the Manhattan Declaration was born in the heart of Chuck Colson. This document encouraged Evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians to stand for their convictions on the issues of the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage and religious freedom. With nearly 525,000 signatures including well-known religious leaders, this document clearly reminds us what Chuck Colson said in a speech at Harvard Business Schoolin 1991, “A society without a foundation of moral absolutes cannot long survive.”

Chuck Colson trained a new generation of church and lay leaders. He challenged us by warning, “There’s too much of the world in the church and not enough church in the world.”

Emily Belz at World Magazine

A Southern Baptist, Colson remained politically and theologically conservative his whole life, but Prison Fellowship gained a reputation for working with both Republicans and Democrats for criminal justice reforms focused on transitioning prisoners into society. Colson also gained a reputation for working across theological aisles, helping to launch the 1994 Evangelicals and Catholics Together initiative and becoming co-author of the 2010 Manhattan Declaration, a statement on conscience and marriage endorsed by a broad spectrum of Christian leaders and now with over half a million signatures.

Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion

One of the things that made Colson so interesting, of course, was that he actually became a born again Christian prior to going to prison. He was converted in a bipartisan Bible study group.

Here is the essential fact — he converted prior to pleading guilty. He’d been charged with conspiracy to cover up the Watergate burglary right after his conversion. He told prosecutors he wouldn’t plea bargain and he hadn’t done what he’d been charged with. But, he told them, he had obstructed justice and if they wanted to charge him with that, he would plead guilty. They did and he did.

Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi)

It was always a joy to respond to Colson. He had an approachable manner, apparently something that he also carried in the White House. And unlike many EC [Emergent Church] critics who never turn up to discuss or defend their criticisms, Charles Colson interacted with us, influenced us, and was influenced by us.

Dale Tedders

The Church of Jesus Christ lost a mighty saint today. His influence will continue to be felt, both here and for all eternity.

Ed Stetzer

Colson’s legacy, like every persevering Christian, is one of a man brought low by his sin, but made new in Christ– and used for his purposes in ways he would have never imagined. When Colson converted to Christianity, the timing of his conversion (1973) led many to speculate about the sincerity of his claim to faith– they thought this might be a “jailhouse conversion.” But nearly 40 years later, Colson’s perseverance lends credit to his testimony.

Other Tributes at Church Blog

Prison Fellowship Video Tribute at YouTube

Colson Center Obituary

Charles W. Colson Quotations

February 29, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to Wednesday Link List Leap Day Edition, or as we prefer to call it, WLLLDE.

Here’s my social media observation for the day: Pinterest is to Facebook what Tumblr is to WordPress.  (Five years from now they’ll be quoting that in business textbooks.)

CT Stories

  • There may be some changes afoot at Christianity Today as to who can access articles online, so we’ll do these while we can.  First, in one we missed in January, T. D. Jakes revealed he’s now regarded as heretic by both mainstream Evangelicals and one-ness Pentecostals.
  • A brief rare interview Rob Bell did with CT earlier in the month. Doesn’t let the cat out of the bag as to what he’s currently working on, though. (But if you’re really into Bellmania, flash back to this piece Tony Jones did exactly one year ago, which remains in his all time top five.)
  • “A century ago, a novel called In His Steps convinced generations of Christians that Jesus would, among other things, oppose the sport of prizefighting. That novel became the ninth best-selling book of all time, and the book’s thesis found new life in the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ movement.” So begins a look at the ethics of cage fighting with three viewpoints.
  • “Here’s what you can do in a New York City public school after hours: You may gather people together once a week (or more often). You can start off with praise choruses and Bible reading. Someone can stand up and teach that Jesus is Lord, that he rose from the dead to save us from sin, and that he is coming again. Then you can break bread and pray together.  Here’s what you can’t do in a New York City public school after hours: Hold a ‘religious worship service.'” Another look at the strange situation in NYC.

Les autres links

  • With just weeks to go before release, Donald Miller and Steve Taylor sit down to discuss how Blue Like Jazz, the collection of short stories, ended up as Blue Like Jazz: The Movie, with a more cohesive storyline. 
  • Signs of the Times: There is now actually a blog with the name Church and Synagogue Security News. Tagline: Covering security and safety at places of worship and religious institutions worldwide.
  • Sarah Bolme reviews Peace Child by Don Richardson; an absolute classic missions story that many of you have never heard of. “In the book, there is a quote from a missionary talking to Don before Don embarks on the mission field. This gentleman says, “You must be prepared in the strength of the Lord, to do battle with the prince of darkness, who, having held these hundreds of tribes captive these many thousand years, is not about to give them up without a fight.” Sarah says Christian authors today face similar obstacles.
  • Zac Hicks looks deeply into the sometimes thorny issue of church membership. He offers five compelling arguments for moving from adherent to member. Which type of weekend service attender are you?
  • Who to date.
    Where to go to college.
    Who to marry.
    Where to move.
    What job to take.  — Steven Furtick thinks that knowing God’s will for your life isn’t the main point.
  • Mark Buchanan is blogging sample chapters of his forthcoming book, Your Church is Too Safe. Check out chapter five and chapter thirteen, a most interesting consideration of the types of spirits that showed up when Jesus ministered, some of which show up in our churches today.
  • In other Zondervan book news, one of my favorites from last year is being released in a teen/youth edition; look for the bright red cover for Not a Fan Teen Edition by Kyle Idleman (no link).
  • How do you get KJV-only teens revved up for the next youth conference? How about a Marine Corps themed promo video with the bold proclamation “In 1611 God forged a sword.”  Apparently before 1611 God was a little deficient in terms of a means to save the world.
  • Donation request: Tony Jones (aka Tall Skinny Kiwi) needs about $5,000 US to ship his truck from Turkey to New Zealand, where it will serve as an operations base. Funds are needed rather soon.
  • If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried at least once to learn Biblical Greek. Tyler Blanski thinks the key is learning to love parts of speech that aren’t so important in English.
  • People Department: I always look forward to Brad Lomenick’s monthly Young Influencers List; here’s the one for February.
  • I’m always interested when slightly more insider church references make it into the comics pages.  Wikipedia notes that Pluggers “…runs in 60 newspapers, mostly in the Southern, Mid-West, Plains, and Rocky Mountain states… In the context of this strip, ‘pluggers’ are defined as blue-collar workers who live a typical working-class American lifestyle, accompanied by a mentality characteristic of the veteran and Baby Boomer generations. In the comic, pluggers are portrayed in the form of anthropomorphic animals, most often a plump bear, dog, chicken, or rhinoceros…”

February 16, 2012

Jews for Jesus: Ministry Life on the Frontlines

For this writer, a sidebar to the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s was what might best be termed the Messianic Movement. As a young Christian, I remember hearing the middle-eastern-flavored music of the groups Lamb and Liberated Wailing Wall, and as someone trying to find relevant resources to communicate the Christian worldview, I was intrigued by a series of rather crudely drawn tri-folded 8 1/2 X 11 tract-substitutes called ‘broadsides’ which tended to be reflective of current events and trends.

The common thread between the music and the literature was an organization called Jews for Jesus. But it turned out there were many groups involved in evangelism to the Jewish community where I lived.  In later years I would attend a Friday night service in Toronto as part of a congregation whose worship style was not much different than the synagogue I’d passed a mile down the road, but whose belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah constituted a great divide.  I would later learn the difference between Messianic Jews (the type of service I’d attended) and Hebrew Christians (whose worship style was more like any given Baptist group on a Sunday morning.)

But when Jews for Jesus came to Toronto and held a major rally in a Toronto high school, I knew I had to be there. 

It turned out I was not the only type of person who wanted to attend. The event was met with protests by the Jewish Defence League. Shouts of “Jews don’t switch” greeted attendees, and once the event itself got underway, it was constantly interrupted by high-pitched whistling that may have come from human or mechanical sources, or both.

Unfortunately, I’d made the mistake of inviting my parents to join me, and in all their years of attendance at church and evangelistic meetings, they had never had to deal with counter-protests, and their discomfort throughout the entire meeting was evident; though I think we were all a bit on edge that night.

Flash forward several decades: When an opportunity to review a new biography of Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, I was not to let the opportunity pass by.  The book Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus is written by his daughter, Ruth Rosen with the intimacy and passion that only an immediate family member can bring, and published by Thomas Nelson.

Like so many others, Moishe Rosen and his wife experience estrangement from their families when they ‘come out’ as believers in Yeshua and begin attending a local Baptist church.  But the calling to ministry takes place over a number of years, and Rosen actually serves 17 years with another mission before spinning JFJ off as a separate entity.

Early chapters of the book highlight something my wife and I felt after twice attending Missionfest: While this type of ministry is unique, there are in fact dozens of organizations tripping over themselves trying to reach the Jewish community with the good news of Jesus. The zeal is common to all, but the methodology often differs greatly.

The book also presents the challenges a Christian leader faces when their vision places them as leader of a team. With my previously mentioned acquaintance with the ministry, I always viewed Rosen’s greatest strength as frontline evangelism, but the book shows him struggling with administration, staff recruitment and training and organizational politics.

While the Bible promises that all who endeavor to live Godly lives in Christ will face persecution, this multiplies many times over when the stated goal of the mission is to convert people steeped in a belief system so very foreign to Christianity, yet joined by a common book (the ‘first covenant’ of our Christian scriptures) and history.  I actually learned a term I had not encountered before: The word “antimissionaries” describing those bent on preventing groups like JFJ from delivering their message.

I very much enjoyed reading Called to Controversy, though some background familiarity with this type of ministry is somewhat necessary to fully appreciate Moishe’s story, since some details are narrated but not fully explained. 

Despite the opposition, Moishe Rosen believed that doing ministry should be fun. Yes, fun. He was fully energized by what he did and all that Jews for Jesus accomplished and could accomplish in the future. While Ruth Rosen does not hide her father’s faults and foibles, there is no denying is qualification as a great 20th century Christian leader.


Thanks to Book Sneeze, a program of Thomas Nelson Publishers for a print copy of Called to Controversy.

Here’s a link to a video of vintage (1973) Liberated Wailing Wall performing Blessed Be the Lord. While the group Lamb wasn’t directly a part of JFJ, their music was better known than LWW among ‘goyim’ like myself. This is their song The Sacrifice Lamb.

January 6, 2011

Sending Your Pastor Back for a Road Test

This first appeared here in January, 2009.

driving-test-sample-questions-scenario1With my mind wandering during a post-supper phone call, I wondered what would happen if, just as some jurisdictions require you to do a fresh road test after 20 years in order to keep driving, your pastor had to appear before a doctrinal committee like the one that ordained him (or her) originally. Just to make sure all his (or her) doctrinal oars are still in the water.

But why target pastors? Board members and Sunday School teachers would be next, followed by you, the average Joe (or Joanne). After a couple of decades serving on committees or helping in the nursery or whatever it is you do; you’d be brought before a group of examiners to make sure that you still have a grasp on, and still hold to the basic tenets of, the core of what we call the Christian faith.

Would people be as nervous leading up this event as they would be if they had to do a fresh road test to keep their driver’s license? Do you think you could pass? Would you be praying they asked easy questions? Do you consider, “Why did Jesus have to die?” to be an easy question?

December 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

It’s a busy week for most so I’ll keep the list short(er) this week…

  • Yes, I do list the links in order of importance, so for this week, it’s got to be a Christianity Today story in celebration of 50 years of Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
  • “Does it really make sense that God is a loving, kind, compassionate God who wants to know people in a personal way, but if they reject this relationship with Jesus, they will be sent to hell where God will eternally punish them forever?”   That question, included in the online, advance-publication announcement for Rob Bell’s forthcoming Love Wins, may explain why the title is with HarperOne, and not with Zondervan.
  • The Amish are causing problems for building contractors in Philadelphia where they are underbidding local companies on jobs, and then leaving town without spending any money.
  • Lots of time to answer our poll question from yesterday — Should audiences still be expected to stand for the playing of the Hallelujah Chorus?
  • A look at Brad Lomenick’s “Young Influencers List” for December led to the discovery that he’s been doing this list for a few years now, with some names you might recognize.
  • If you own a business in Dallas, Texas, you’d better not be substituting “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” or First Baptist Church will put you on their “Naughty or Nice” list.
  • It’s minus 12 degrees Celsius, or 10 degrees Fahrenheit in Fairbanks, Alaska.  What better time for an outdoor baptism service.
  • Because of remarks made by Canadian Pastor Charles McVety, the National Post reports that Crossroads Television System (CTS) has been found to be in violation of Canada’s strict “anti-hate” Canadian Broadcast Standards.
  • Cedric Miller, a New Jersey pastor “believes the forbidden fruit had a QWERTY keyboard and came with status updates.”  He’s ordered his church leaders to either quit Facebook or resign.
  • Canadian readers:  Don’t forget you have less than two weeks to help us fill our Salvation Army iKettle.  No matter where you live, donations stay with the S.A. Family Services branch closest to you.
  • Joel Spencer doesn’t blog frequently, but if you like your bloggers with tongues firmly planted in cheeks, you might enjoy his catalog of Jesus action figures for 2010.
  • Bonus link:  In the days before Weird Al, there was Ray Stevens (Guitarzan, The Streak, Bridget the Midget, etc.) filling the novelty music category.  He’s back with a commentary on U.S. immigration policy.
  • Today’s cartoon is a 2009 entry at ShoeBoxBlog, while today’s picture is none other than Shane Claiborne at the White House which appeared — National Enquirer style — at the blog OutOfUr.  BTW, you need to drop by your bookstore to actually see, touch and feel what Shane is doing with his new book, Common Prayer.

November 18, 2010

Sometimes Bigger IS Necessarily Better

I’ve been thinking (not out loud) all day about this one.

Sometimes a church or ministry organization will begin a period of rapid and accelerating growth.   They hire new staff.   They add new programs or services.   They need larger premises in which to conduct their activities.

All this time, there are people critics standing on the sidelines suggesting that they’ve created a monster, and now all their energies need to be spent feeding the beast.

And that’s often the case.

Sometimes growth is a natural product of the effectiveness of a church or parachurch organizations ministry.   If it’s working, if it’s blessing people, if it’s bringing people into the kingdom, we want to see it grow, right?

Now… I know there are people reading this who have an issue with “big.”    They like to give to niche mission organizations and perhaps their weekly worship thing is a smaller congregation or even a home church.   Is that you?   Then trust me, I’m on-side.  I know the intimacy that comes through worship in a smaller group, and I know that your missions giving yields more bang for your buck when the people in the office and the people ministering on the front lines are the same people.

I’m not, across-the-board, in favor of “big.”

But I also realized today that there are some major liabilities that can take place when you have a ministry that is powerful and effective, but somewhere along the line you failed — or were unable — to build an organization.

This isn’t about the fact that as president of my own company, I occasionally empty the wastebaskets or clean the toilets.   I don’t mind modeling servant leadership.    In fact, there’s nothing I would ask any employee to do that I don’t do or haven’t done myself.     I believe good leadership involves getting your hands dirty.

I’m just realizing that perhaps as a leader, I failed to set my sights on greater possibilities, and am paying the price today for not bringing in more strategic partnerships.

Because I think that sometimes, bigger is better.   Even in church and ministry.


lower image: (click link)

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