There is a need to mentor those who are up and coming in leadership. Those who are still in the church and wanting to know their place in the world and in God’s world. We want to know why young adults and post-high are leaving the church. Why aren’t we mentoring them? Why aren’t we taking time to teach them what it means to be men and women of God?...
September 26, 2013 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Recently, I was at St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt, Michigan, sitting around a table with others representing various denominations; Methodist, Lutheran, and others. We were gathered to design a healthy boundary training workshop for pastors as part of an SPE (Sustaining Pastoral Excellence...

September 25, 2013 0 2 comments
I just read When God Shows Up: A Pastor’s Journey. The bulk of the book is about the author's ministry, and in particular, a church conflict during the turbulent 70s and 80s, when the charismatic movement affected many established churches. It's a story of excited believers and disappointed ones, of emotional agony and painful misunderstanding, of people...
September 25, 2013 0 4 comments
Life has seasons and rhythms. In a garden, there are times of planting, growth, harvest … and also time for the ground to lie fallow. Trying to fight these rhythms is foolish. It is like trying to surf between waves, instead of waiting to ride the waves. By the end of the day you’ve worn yourself out, and you wouldn’t have ridden the board much either...
September 19, 2013 0 3 comments
Last month I asked for your help in co-teaching the Leadership in Ministry course at Calvin Seminary. Thank you for the great insights and questions that were provided. As we continue the conversation, what book would you recommend that our students dive into as part of their surveying the literature and gaining their bearings for their journey as servant leaders?
September 17, 2013 0 9 comments
Our ‘88 Toyota Camry is 25 years old, with 156,000 miles on the odometer. But she’s a faithful family friend and she’s never left us stranded. So I felt much dismay one Saturday afternoon when I returned to the spot where I thought I had parked her and found it occupied by another vehicle. I checked all 150 cars in that lot. No sign of her. She was gone...
September 12, 2013 0 7 comments
Dr. Ron Klassen wrote in his book No Little Places: The Untapped Potential of the Small-Town Church, "A disproportionate percentage of professional Christian workers, including as many as 80% of foreign missionaries, come from small churches...
September 10, 2013 0 2 comments
I don’t wear a carved out watermelon on my head on game day, but yes, I’m a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan. It just so happens that at the time of writing, this team is 8 and 1. An impressive record especially in a league where the regular season is only 18 games long. So, how have the Riders done it?  What can we learn about leadership from the Green and White?...
September 5, 2013 0 6 comments
Henry Benjamin Whipple went on to become Bishop of Minnesota and to plead, famously, to President Abraham Lincoln himself, for the lives of the 300+ Dakota warriors sentenced to hang after the Dakota War. Lincoln later said he felt the urgency of Whipple's visit "down to his boots."  Most Minnesota white folks hated him. His colleagues thought him a fanatic...
August 29, 2013 0 8 comments
My expectations are often merely another form of the Law. They are my expectations of how I think the world should be. They are my beliefs about my importance, my plans, my destiny, my life. The problem is that they also often do not match what God plans for me. All these expectations do is condemn me. They make me miserable. They place the law of sin ...
August 28, 2013 0 0 comments
There is no idea more central to the NT than the importance of the gospel. It is the "good news" of Jesus. It is the message of Jesus and the message of the Church. I sure wish it was that easy!  Wouldn't it be great if everyone knew and understood what the gospel is, what it means, and how to proclaim it?  I am saddened that even within my peer group (pastors) there is...
August 20, 2013 0 9 comments
My church recently changed the kind of coffee we serve on Sundays. There are coffee stations with self-serve air pots and a variety of seating options. Bare walls have been replaced with artwork. Fluorescent lights have been replaced with track lighting. Bulletin boards have been replaced with a video monitor. And here’s what I’ve noticed; nothing has really changed...
August 13, 2013 0 3 comments
Pick up a CRCNA Yearbook and among the familiar names you’ll find unknowns such as Terra Ceia, Woden, Prairie View, Austinville and more. Historically, we know how churches got planted in such places. But the question arises, “Would Jesus today go to minister in such out-of-the-way places?” If not, wouldn’t we be better off just closing down all those tiny churches...
August 6, 2013 0 0 comments

This fall we are following the WE Covenant teaching series produced by Faith Alive Christian Resources.  Accordingly, I'd like to preach on biblical covenants while we explore them through the WE program.

August 1, 2013 0 4 comments
I preach regularly at the Woodland Drive-In Church in Grand Rapids. The question inevitably arises: Why would people want to worship at a drive-in church instead of sitting inside a traditional church? There are two main categories of people who attend our services and a number of reasons they do so...
August 1, 2013 0 5 comments
We just returned from vacation. But now, on my second day back on duty, I’m asking myself: “Can I really do this?” For the most part, I enjoy being a pastor.  But today I’m not so sure I want to do this.  Happily, August is generally a quieter month. But I know September is coming and I’m not sure I want to face the demands that lie ahead.  What’s a pastor to do?...
July 31, 2013 0 0 comments
In preparation for a course I'll be co-teaching this fall, I'd like your input on what we can do more fully prepare our graduates for ministry. Finish the sentence "I wish Calvin Seminary prepared students more in…." and post your response in the comments.
July 23, 2013 0 32 comments
"I love you more than my need to be right." I’ve been thinking about those words in the context of this verse  – “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” – and have wondered what difference it might make to those standing on the margins of the church. What if their experience of church was marked by people who listened well to them and each other...
July 18, 2013 0 1 comments
In 1999 I was blessed to be extended a call to co-pastor Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which had a vision to become a multicultural church.  I researched the CRC’s doctrines, history and mission focus and it all seemed to align with God’s leading in my life. So I accepted the call. I was eager...
July 16, 2013 0 6 comments
If you minister where the most well-read news magazines are Progressive Farmer and the Farmers’ Almanac and not The New York Times, where you can't leave town without everyone knowing where you are headed, and where everyone knew your name before you ever arrived there, then this blog’s for you...
July 9, 2013 0 2 comments
One of my readers asked me to reflect on the whole issue of judgment in the church. His starting point was Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” How can we make sense out of this whole business about judging—a word used often in the New Testament and sometimes in opposite ways?...
July 2, 2013 0 5 comments
"If you seek God's hand, you will miss His face. If you seek His face, you will get His hand also." I have to say this quotation hits the nail on the head as to why so many folks are not effective in their prayer life. They seek God's blessing on their work and life without seeking God's searching, purifying, and transforming grace. I know I have lived this way all too often. I have prayed...
June 27, 2013 0 2 comments
Ender is confronted by a gang from school. At first, I couldn’t discern the fault in his thinking; it was completely logical: “I will have to face these bullies every day. No one will help me. Therefore, I must help myself. I will beat them at this game so badly they will never fight me again.” I realized that Ender’s decision was completely logical only if one believes that one is truly alone...
June 18, 2013 0 6 comments
Discussion Topic

Edwin Walhout, apparently a retired CRC minister, has written an article in the Banner suggesting and promoting the changing of a number of core reformation doctrines which the CRC holds to, and which are foundational to our understanding of who man is, who Christ is, and what our relationship...

June 10, 2013 0 51 comments
Perhaps in some of your studies you have found, probably through the help of commentaries, how a Hebrew prophet plays with words in order to communicate his message. The way in which the narrator of the Jonah story has crafted this book is indeed exciting. A variety of words are sprinkled throughout the book to give it a hidden and enriching unity. I can only...
June 6, 2013 0 6 comments



Hi Greg,

Thanks for writing this blog.  I resonate with it.  It is certainly challenging to be pastoral and visionary.  Not sure how to strike a balance here, or if that's even the right approach.  But I do find that spending daily time with the Lord in solitude and silence essential to nourishing my soul and becoming more visionary.  The challenge I have is carving out time for the longer monthly or annual retreat(s), that would allow greater soul refreshment and visioning to occur. 

Again, thank you kindly for writing the article.


Loving boundries are so very important. We always need to remember that bounries also have a gate, to let certain things in and keep other things out. With proper boundries we can effectively love and minister to those with mental health issues. Thank you for sharing your story.

Mark...It's so great that we have these rescources. Wish I had added them in, but was trying to keep it around 600 words. I will keep these in mind for future ministry though.

Hi Joshua, thanks for writing this and for your pastoral heart. Your advice is right on, especially the part about boundaries with love. With a father who dealt with bipolar for 82 years (now passed away) and a daughter now dealing with it I am thankful for open and honest conversation.

Joshua, thanks for this great advice. CRC Disability Concerns has a page of suggested resources for ministry with people who are dealing with mental health issues including sermons, additional ideas/resources for pastoral care, and a link to Stories of Grace and Truth - poems, brief memoirs, and artwork by people who have been affected by mental health issues.

I think you're onto something, Jon. The rate and volume of change in our cultural milieu ought to encourage us to continually ask questions about what kinds of leadership roles are needed in order for God's people to faithfully embody the Good News of Jesus Christ here and now. I think the OT prophets already offered a strong and at times blunt critique of Israel's fascination with the Temple-based identity (See Jeremiah 7 for one example) and in response called God's people to a much broader embodiment of the Gospel (Isaiah 58). Our contemporary distortion of God's gifts (staff, buildings, budgets) so that our joy is found in their abundance and our discernment of God's will is determined primarily (if not solely) by our assessment of their apparent abundance or their absence is not new. The challenge is can we see these gifts in the light of a passage like Ephesians 4 as resources that God blesses the body of Christ with in order to equip each member can do it's part?    

Hans & Greg,

your use of Woodward here is a helpful way to spring board into a leadership conversation. We may need to do some creative applications of the offices of elder and deacon to encourage a shift in emphasis from being focused primarily on decision making to a model that is geared more toward equipping others to become disciples of Jesus who make more disciples of Jesus.

Some assumptions come with these type of conversations: leaders serve the community of God's people by equipping them for ministry (diakonia) and that the Good News stretches from the beginning to the end of scripture - a God who creates and has created us to participate in cultivating life throughout creation all the way to the full flourishing of creation in Rev 22. So often we stop at the notion of being saved from our sins without asking what we have been saved into (new life in Jesus Christ). That new life is much richer and broader than we typically assume because God's salvation and reconciliation is much more expansive than we have understood. (Rom 8 - creation's groaning - and Col 1:15ff "reconcilling all things" comes to mind). 

Leadership that is bent toward equipping God's people for ministry as a community of disciples in all arenas of life looks a lot different than leadership that is focused primarily on decisions about sustainability of budget, staff, and buildings.

Chris et al, you share some healthy challenges for both congregations and pastors.  After reading your comments and the comments of the others, I think that the discussion comes down to two things, namely the identity/role of the pastor and of the congregation in the milieu of todays' society. 

Congregations often have expectations of pastors and of themselves based on traditional perspectives of 15 or 20 years ago; yet the world around us, both in our congregations, our neighbourhoods and in the world at large is considerably different than it was 20 years ago. 

I am becoming increasingly convinced that one of the main roles of a pastor is to help shepherd the members of the congregation to shift their expectations and understanding of what it means to be a Christian from that of a church-building focussed view, to a more wholistic view, wherein our Christian beliefs inform and are lived out in every facet of our lives.  In a sense, this progression reflects the movement from the Old Testament view which was focussed on the Tabernacle as the place to experience God, to the New Testament view that contains Christs' calling to live out the Good News in all areas of our lives.

In asking the question as to how would we respond if we did not have a budget, building etc to be the focus our lives,
I think that have the potential to emphasize the daily living out our faith in every area of life, not simply at church.


Wow - challenging musings for church leaders and organizations.  Thanks for sharing it!


Good thoughts and questions.  I think that the key passage in Hayford's quote is "I have found, although difficult at times, it's possible to do both."  The best place to be in other words, is to live in the tension between the two and not try to "simplify" things by choosing to be either/or.  Circumstances usually force a pastor to wear both hats, simply because many pastors are GPs who are the only full time employed person on a church staff and don't have the ability to specialize.  True, some pastors lean too far in the direction of being a pastoral presence.  But I have also seen some who lean too far in the other direction, and for whom the congregation becomes a means to an end.

It seems to me that a quality that connects both the pastor/visitor and the "visionary" leader is the capacity of listening.  The older I get the more cautious I am of the Barna style "pastor goes into the desert and gets a vision that everyone should fall behind" model, and more open to the idea that the Holy Spirit is truly working through the entire people of God and that it is the pastors task to be listening (through visitation?) for where the Spirit is already at work.  If we take it seriously that Jesus is the real pastor of our church, this will always be taking place somewhere...but we have to be faithful to lead by listening.


Hans, re Woodward, good to think about. I think the gifts would be spread across both offices. So you would have elders and deacons with a variety of gifts - apostle, prophet, teacher, pastor and evangelists. However one would expect that elders would have more pastors, teachers, some apostles (which are generally rarer). Deacons would have more prophets and pastors. Some would be evangelists (again a rarer gift I think). The gifts are biblical and the offices are biblical so the matter may be more our job to identify them clearly and use them more fully.

interesting conversation.  Can we say  - all Christian are given gifts for the sake of the Church/Kingdom.  But, God also calls certain people into roles (at least 5 of them spelled out in Ephesians 4).  

Can we imagine the office of elder being a category that includes pastors and teachers in a congregation? 

Can we imagine the office of deacon as a category for ensuring that the roles of apostles, prophets and evangelists are identified in the diaconate?

J. R. Woodward has inspired me to contemplate the importance of these 5 roles




Thanks, Greg. I fully agree that there is a place for pastors/clergy within our churches. However, my sense is that we often fail to first seriously ask what roles the people in the church ought to be. We are quite content to talk about the pastor's role, but hesitant to talk about the role of the "ordinary" member in the pew. As a result, I think we often fail to understand what the pastor is called to do: equip the body of Christ to do acts of service (Eph. 4). Similar things could be said about financial resources and buildings. Until we understand the calling of God on the people of God, we are limited in terms of how to understand the role of pastoral/ministry staff, buildings, and financial resources. Instead of cultivating, supplementing, or encouraging the body of Christ to minister (diakonia), they (and "the church") too easily are conceived as existing only for ministering to the body of Christ. We need permission to first ask what is the role (or the mission) of the people of God, apart from and before asking what the roles of pastors, buildings, and money are.  

The questions you are asking about Church Order expectations for what metrics validate a church as being a church (financial sustainability, sufficient number of people to provide Council leadership, ordained pastor/commissioned pastor, etc) are important ones. As our contexts change - and change more rapidly - we will need to learn how to be more nimble with our leadership structures and expectations than we have traditionally been. But I don't think that means we need to abandon our Reformed ecclesiology and embrace a Brethern model. Quite the contrary, I see ample room for the development of missional communities, multi-sites, and other models of cultivating and extending missional engagement that allow us to shift our focus off of the gifts (staff/buildings/money) God lavishes upon us and onto the people of God and what they are called to do. 


Thanks for these thoughts Chris. How can we encourage the growth of the missional church in the CRC and with the church order? I think pastors have a role to play in the missional church but we are always working against expectations that they will do the ministry. Clergy will have some of the gifts (5 equipping gifts from Ephesians 4) but not all. This gives other leaders an opportunity to come around and use their gifts in a fuller way. The other complicating factor is the cost of paid staff in a small missional church that is seeking to replicate itself quickly. A stripped down mission oriented church (low budget, no or minimal paid staff and rented facility) seems to go against church order. How can we foster a Reformed missional movement without going the Brethren route?


The Plymouth Brethern, started in the middle 19th century, invented Dispensational Christianity, started colleges, financed the Scofield Bible,  and managed without paid pastors for 100 years. I attended DesMoines (WA) Gospel Chapel in the 1970's and half their budget went to foreign missions. I think they have been "corrupted" and some congregations have a paid staff.

West coast congregations are "open" churches, almost the same as Baptist churches. Closed congregations are in GB and on our east coast, known for not being friendly to strangers.





Vintage Ken Nydam!!!  I usually ask in reply, "Do you really want to know?"  If they affirm then I say, "I am blessed and thankful!" And then I ask in reply, "Would you like to know why? And they affirm I then give a testimony.  Keep up the good work, Ken!


I have struggled with the same "flippant greeting disorder." I have approached it by figuring out something to say that is truthful, spiritual, and makes an impression deeper than "Hello".  I use a short heartfelt alliterartive phrase in reply. Here are seven I use :" I am living in God's love... I am finding God faithful...I am trusting God's truth... I am growing in God's grace... I am rejoicing in Jesus... I am walking in God's wisdom... I am thankful for everything God gives me".  I use different phrases at different times to keep from being monotonous.  Believers will appreciate when they hear it, and unbelievers might be stimulated to think about what their life is about.  Try it!  And make up your own!

Thanks, Ken,

I agree wholeheartedly. This is part of s[peaking the truth in love. I have warned people that when they ask I will answer and when I ask I really mean it. I am ready to listen, or I don't ask. Let's speak the truth to each other.

I would say  that your "Hello" answer, as a pastor, was rude though it did let you move on but it didn't leave a very good impression.

I loved this story, and in part because of the great memories of my old '89 Camry. That is a great car! I love how God gives us pictures of his grace and love through experiences with ordinary things. Thanks for sharing this story!

posted in: A Small Redemption

I have felt the same uncomfortable feeling with the "How are you" greeting. Now I say "Hi, nice to see you".

Interesting, when I lived in New Jersey I found it was customary to say "How ya doin'?" when walking past someone on the sidewalk that you did not know. The appropriate, expected response was also "How ya doin'?"--I found it confusing at first, having grown up in midwest where people do not ask a question as they walk swiftly past someone. Soon though, I realized that it wasn't that people were being rude--quite the opposite! They were speaking up to acknowledge my presence. Though they didn't intend to have a conversation with me, neither did they want to walk past as thought I didn't exist. I wonder if that is also the intention behind some flippant greetings you've described. Maybe there is a genuine desire to make people feel valued despite the lack of an established relationship or the time that would allow for an extended conversation.

Missional discipleship.  Problem: getting them off the couch and the bleachers and into the classroom... or small group

living rooms.   Motivation?  from leadership - pastors and elders, maybe deacons also.

posted in: Exegete This!

Death is some thing we face everyday. Whether it is some one we know or not, we are surrounded in a world filled with death. Many ask why a truly loving god would put us in this world filled with such sorrow, with such pain. Why some would have to face this mortal experience without the support of those who have passed? Why would God allow that some would live long lives and others would have the spark of life extisuighed so soon in life?

i have sometimes struggled with these questions myself. i lost my grandfather who i did not know very well due to a deibliating diease he had earlier in his life. i struggled with the fact that i had never truly had gotten a oppurtuiny to truly understand him, the only clue i had to what he had been was at his funeral. That was a time of great sorrow to suddenly realize what a loss it had been. What a terrible thing would it be if i could never get any of that back. Luckily for all of us such is not the case/ 

 It is our job as those who minister to help those who ask these questions to understand Gods greater plan. We may have to forgo the company of many of our friends and families but for a time, in lifes seemingly endless twists and turns but we can take comfort and comfort those that mourn with the good news. Death is not the end it is but a transition. Some thing that we must all go thourgh at the end of this mortal sorjoun. So let us rejoice at the times we have had with those we love and look forward to the time where we can again be with those we have lost.

This is an ecumenical group of trainers and I'm not sure that the group would be willing to travel to BC. However, there are plans to publish the training materials that are being developed! I'm very excited about this possibility and how those materials might be used (it's a wonderful group of people working together on this, lots of valuable wisdom). I believe that it's difficult for seminary training to prepare pastors for all that they will face. Therefore, ongoing training is needed, especially in this area of boundaries, which can often be the source of conflict in churches.

Would you consider coming out to the West Coast, say Abbotsford BC to do a similar workshop?

Thank you, Bev, for clarifying that it was Dallas Willard who emphasized the importance of solitude and silence--especially today.  I agree with him wholeheartedly!  Accordingly, I find "taking Sabbath" an essential practice for God's people today.   

I also like that Nouwen quote.  I remember reading something similar in one of Willard's book (The Great Omission, I think).  Something like: "No one has made significant progress in the Christian life without spending considerable time in solitude and silence."

May the Lord help us all to live this out, and then teach our people to do the same!


I appreciate what the others are writing, and especially the resources that you have found helpful in trying to get a handle on what effective leadership is and how to maneuver through conflict. I have been at Zondervan for over 25 years, though never in a supervisory position. But all employees were required to take a course in Covey's Seven Effective Habits, one of which was "Think Win-Win."

Unfortunately in the American culture, our entire thought patterns are Win-Lose. We see it, naturally, in sports; we see it in the legal profession; we see it politics (the other term for that is gridlock). And I think we see it in church conflict--there will be winners and there will be losers. I don't believe it has to be that way. It wasn't that way in the NT church, but it took time to build a consensus. We need to think win-win (that is perhaps the X that Ron Klimp talks about).


You have posed the question as if the leader has three choices: A, B or remain neutral

When churches (or groups) experience conflict over choice A or choice B it may be because they (or their leadership) have not passionately sought out, defined, then repeatedly emphasized the ultimate goal X. If X (which it now occures to me can conveniently stand for Christ and his kingdom) is well defined in the current context -- we are called to be..... and to do... -- then discussions about whether route A, B, or C take us there more directly (and at what cost) can be more openly explored.

 I suspect that the leader who allows himself/herself to be identified with A, B, C, D or E before the group has adequately explored them all and chosen one by a clear majority (while being frequently reminded of X) is the leader who goes down in flames or cleans up after a train wreck. 

Eugene Peterson's book The Pastor: A Memoir has some good chapters on his honest struggling with a young church about what they should become (and at the same time what he as a pastor should become).



I am currently reading The Painful Side of Leadership, Moving Forward Even When it Hurts by Jeff Iorg. it's an excellent book for pastors and leaders. Sometimes pain comes as a result of followers, sometimes as a result of leaders. Sometimes it happens because of sin, other times it may be just misunderstandings. Iorg shares some insightful suggestions in dealing with painful situations in leadership.


Found your post most interesting in the light of my having just finished reading the book as well as the reality of being "on the scene" at this point. (I'm serving Calgary's former First CRC--now RiverParkChurch as their Interim Sr. Pastor.) When I asked Henry W. for some input regarding my serving here, he suggested "Read my book," which I obediently and wisely enough did.

But, having said all that, doesn't qualify me to answer all of your questions. A lot has transpired at the church since. Folks have headed in a variety of directions, and some of the differnces seem very minimal in the light of developments, even denominationally since. A pastor is always steering in a direction. It's impossible to be an impartial referee. When he/she is or becomes the center of the debate, I'd suggest it may be time to have an honest, reality show kind of discussion and determine which group goes where with whom, being obviously honest about why they're doing so. All too often we use all kinds of rhetoric to explain what is really not honest or maybe explainable.

Seems to me that in those kinds of situations, no real listening takes place. We're too busy givng our impressions or opinions and then forget/refuse to listen. Personalities are a reality, and it's best when we're honest about it. Read Acts again and see Paul & Barnabas' approach, with an eventual compromise and reconciliation. How do we keep the focus when persons become the focal point?  Anyhow, just some ramblings as I deal with a church/people greatly affected. No conclusions drawn......yet.......or ever. Not mine to do, I think.


that was Dallas Willard, as interestingly, I just read about that concept in a book earlier today  =)  he considered silence and solitude the 2 most radical discplines of the Christian life.  and Henri Nouwen said that "without solitude it is almost impossible to live a spiritual life."

interestingly the Native Americans tended to live in sync with their natural rhythm but it is not looked upon with much affirmation and usually to their detriment by those that don't follow their natural rhythms... most of us would quite likely get fired and lose our jobs if we did live in accordance with our natural rhythm...  if you are self employed, you have much more flexibility with your work schedule...

what was fascinating to me from my reading today, and I had never thought of this before, was that while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they worked 365 days a year, every day was the same, there was no Sabbath and the command to honor it had not been given yet... it was after they were freed that God gave them the gift of a day of rest via Mt. Sinai.


thx. for the invitation for input here... I know i'm a bit late to this thread, and classes are already back in session for the fall...

I'm a lay leader, and when/if my pastor/spiritual leaders have a lifestyle of praying and fasting, my confidence in all the other areas/decisions will be much higher that they are walking in step with and sensitive and open to the leading of the Spirit.  I believe the Spirit will help with whatever wisdom and insight they will need for whatever situation will arise, including using the potential gifts of other believers for certain situations, and that the leading of the Spirit will always be in line with the Word of God.

I will briefly discuss 3 areas that are connected to that, and it's possible these are already discussed in another class.

prayerlessness, The average time spent in prayer for 95% of believers is less than 5 minutes a day, and for pastors that average is 6-7 minutes/day.  there are all kinds of statistics on this, and I believe there is currently a group (Denominational prayer leaders network?) that is working on connecting with seminary leaders to encourage an increased emphasis on prayer in their curriculum.

One of my theories on prayerlessness is because many churches no longer view/teach Song of Songs as an allegory between Jesus and His Bride, the Church...  Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of that relationship (spiritual intimacy) if we are willing to work at understanding what each phrase symbolizes, instead of letting our culture influence what it means to us. (that's an entire discussion on its own ;)

and then there's the "practice" of fasting  ;)  that is often closely tied to prayer...  I think that would be an interesting discussion as well!!  Fasting is almost unheard of in today's church culture, and if brought up, the result is often strange looks along with "why in the world would we do that?"  or "that's not for the NT church"

and a discussion on cessationism/continuationism of the gifts I think would be very insightful.  What I have found is that "listening" prayer, that the Holy Spirit speaks and prompts today, is still considered a heresy by some, even though we/crc refuted cessationism back in 1973.

hope that makes sense!


again, thanks for asking =)




I grew up in a small church.  There were probably never more than 15 or 20 children, pre-school to high school.  As we grew up, we held the choir together; we taught Sunday School, Bible School, Bible clubs in open air, and in other ways learned the nuts and bolts of praise, worship, teaching and leadership.  We didn’t know about Dr. Klassen—he was long after our time; but his observation might have been made from us.  From our small group came two pastors, two international missionaries, a leader in Samaritan’s Purse, and a trained group of young adults who were ready to become leaders in their local churches.

SAMcGuire, Bourbonnais, Illinois

Hello President Medenblik,

Thank you for passing on the reading list.  'Looks very helpful!  And thank you for inviting our input as pastors in the field.  Three titles that immediately come to mind are: Leading the Congregation, by Norman Shawchuck & Reuben Job; Center Church, by Timothy Keller; and The Pastor, by Eugene Peterson.

May the Lord bless your teaching and leadership ministry!


Hello Mark,

Thank you for writing this insightful article.  I resonate with your concerns.  (And here I am, responding to your article--catching up on my email correspondence and social media--on a Friday evening!)  I recall the late Dallas Willard--or was it Richard Foster?--saying that solitude and silence is the most urgent spiritual discipline for us to practice today, as we live in an over-extended and distracted world. 

Thank you for reminding me to be more sensitive to our natural rhythms.  I think I'll log out now! :)


The Pastor by Eugene Peterson; Building a Discipleship Culture by Mike Breen; Christ-Based Leadership by David Stark; Church Unique by Will Mancini; The Making of a Leader by Bobby Clinton; The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory by Roberta Gilbert and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards was very helpful for me in dealing with "alligators" in the congregation. A quick, easy read.

To be honest, I found Bill Hybles' book Courageous Leadership to be very helpful and insightful. It gave me a lot to go by for my own perosnal growth in leadership. I know it's a bit more "pop culturery" (as in not Henri Nouwen) but it has some good stuff that can be taken away for leaders.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is always a good read and another I have found helpful is The Equipping Pastor by R. Paul Stevens and Phil Collins which is a systems approach to congregational leadership. 

Leading with a Limp - Dan Allender; Spiritual Leadership - Henry & Richard Blackaby; Relational Leadership - Walter Wright; Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership - Ruth Haley Barton; Missional Leader - Roxburgh & Romanuk


You've probably already had this recommendation, but Center Church by Timothy Keller is an intriguing and helpful book. Its brought greater clarity to my thinking on a range of issues dealing with the role of the church in the broader community. 


Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community by Christopher Heuertz is enriching, and woulr make for some great "deep skimming." 

As I mentioned in my comment to your first post, our future pastors need to explore what it means for the church to be inclusive with people with disabilities. What does the Bible say about inviting and welcoming these fellow image bearers to worship God with us. An excellent book on this topic is The Lost Mandate, A Christ Command Revealed by Dan'l C Markham. This book talks about the mandate given by Christ in Luke 14 to 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.'

Another subject closely related to disability ministry is biomedical ethics. How can the church be a light as people are being challenged daily with beginning and end of life decisions. How are pastors going to respond when people come to them asking for advice on these difficult issues.While we should not expect our pastors to know everything, we should expect them to be acquainted with issues such as bio ethics so they can encourage the church to seek answers with a Biblical perspective. How To Be A Christian In A Brave New World by Joni Eareckson Tada and Nigel Cameron is a very good source of information for bio ethics.

Both of these books are available in Kindle format which can be very helpful to a seminarian's budget.




You're right on!!!!  Growing up in a small church, I was able to play the piano and serve in the nursery and teach VBS starting at 11 years old! Even young teens weren't spectators. What valuable experience I received and carry with me today. I was 15 years in a large church as a young adult, and it was sad for me to never see teens participating in music. The pianists were great and very professional, but the teens didn't have opportunities to serve. Does God want only professionalism, or willing servants? I think the latter.

Hello August,

Yes, I know the Eskimos are struggling right now.  Actually, they look a lot like the 2012 Riders!  But since I wrote the blog, the Riders have also lost--to Winnipeg!  A humbling experience for them, I'm sure!

Actually, I think that perhaps there's more to learn from losing than winning.  So much to gain from reflecting on our mistakes and failures.  I suspect the Eskimos are doing that, and will improve before the season's end. 

Peace to you!


A real 21st century parable (even though the car comes from the 20th century). Thanks.

posted in: A Small Redemption

Tremendous post, brother! Thanks for sharing!

posted in: A Small Redemption


Glad to hear that I'm not the only one who has feelings like that for a car at times. Great use of such as a parable....of redemption. Enjoyed it immensely. Don't forget to change the windshield washing fluid...lots of baptism symbolism and seeing things clearly again......

posted in: A Small Redemption

Ken, my dear brother in Jesus,

Thanks--so much--for this piece.  Marcia's and my hearts were moved by reading it. 

Blessings to Kay and you,

Dale Cooper

posted in: A Small Redemption