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Don’t Swing for the Fences

For a lifelong Cubs fan, there was hardly a more thrilling player than Sammy Sosa. Let’s set aside, for a moment, the fact that he played during the scandal-plagued steroid era. At the time, I was a giddy baseball fan, tuning into WGN to hear every thrilling at bat in 1998, when Sosa and Mark McGuire competed for the home run title. Sammy’s home runs were the stuff of legend and made tuning into a baseball game on a Saturday afternoon a community event. I still hear the dulcet tones of Pat Hughes in my head, “There’s a drive, deep…

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Embracing My Less than Spectacular Church

For nearly nine years I was on senior staff at one of the largest evangelical churches in the suburbs of Chicago. We were highly organized, and prided ourselves on excellence in all of our ministry outreaches. My drive to work every day was about 30 minutes, a commute that took me past many small churches, churches I then considered insignificant. As their tiny, sometimes run-down buildings sailed by, I would think, What’s the point of these churches? Is anything even happening there? Turns out God had a way of shaking me loose of my mega church arrogance. In a poetic…

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The Power of an Average Mentor

It was an inauspicious meeting, really. It took place in the corner booth at a Burger King. He, in his early 70s, a veteran pastor and church leader. Me, a young Bible college graduate and soon-to-be pastor. I was serving as a volunteer youth pastor at a struggling church in the Chicago suburbs and he was the interim, brought in to stabilize the congregation during a period of turmoil and decline. I wasn’t really sure why I called Bill and asked for a meeting. I told my wife it was simply to “get on the same page” with the senior…

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Abortion Meets a New Generation

As evangelicals who came of age during the culture wars, we’re part of a generation ready to move past the pitched left-right debates. The critiques of Christian political activism have held some merit: A hyper-focus on elections, voter guides, and strategy has often buried the gospel story. Sometimes following Christ has strangely looked like following an elephant or a donkey. We need the hope, optimism, and willingness of a new generation of evangelicals to get dirty serving the poor, fighting for justice, and eschewing party labels. Their wide-eyed engagement has awakened new interest in bipartisan horrors such as human trafficking,…

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The Church That Saved Me

When a church looks for a pastor, in most cases, it is looking for a leader who can revive its witness and vitality in the community. So I supposed Gages Lake Bible Church, a small, struggling church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, was looking for a human savior. And while we had some successes in the five years I pastored there—increased attendance, major structural changes, renewed vision, and leadership health—it wasn’t me who saved the church. It was the church that saved me. Of course I should begin with the usual Christian caveats. Yes, I realize churches don’t save…

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How Did Jesus View the Bible?

When I pastored my small, theologically conservative church, I could safely assume the people sitting in the pews on Sunday morning to hear me preach believed that the Bible they held in their hands was God’s Word. But what exactly does that mean? Enter Pastor Kevin DeYoung. His book, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Crossway, 2014) doesn’t break any new ground in the debates over inerrancy. Coming in at just under 140 pages, this is a quick and easy read. But that’s just the point.…

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Behold Your Mother

“Yeah, well, we’re leaving tomorrow for vacation.” This was the stunning response I received from the adult daughter of an ill and elderly church member when I called to let them know her father was in the hospital, hanging on to life. I wish I could say this was a rare exception, but I’d be lying. When I pastored a mostly elderly congregation, I was shocked at the cavalier attitude of their Christian children. These were otherwise professing, faithful, generous believers who, nonetheless, seemed dismissive about their parents. I’m not referring to the very difficult decision many face of whether…

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The Worst Ministry Advice I Ever Received

“Son,” the pastor whispered to me as he put his hand on my shoulder, “You need to listen up to what I’m about to tell you, because it will be the key to your ministry success.” I leaned in, eager to hear this crucial insight. “Don’t become friends with anyone in your congregation.” This pastor was only a few years older than me, but he’d grown up in a pastor’s home. He was scarred from the abuse he’d seen his father suffer and from his own experiences in ministry. To be fair, his advice did contain some bits of wisdom.…

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A Ministry of the Mundane

I’ll never forget the quiet of the church building on my first day as pastor. I had previously served on a large church staff with many action-packed weekly ministries. The building was a beehive of activity. But in my new role as pastor of a small church, it was a different experience, one my Bible-college training and Christian upbringing didn’t quite prepare me for. I suspect most of my ministry colleagues have made similar adjustments. I once heard Chuck Swindoll say to a gathering of ministers, “In ministry life, there are more moments of the mundane than the magnificent.” This…

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The Essential Art of Forgiveness in Ministry

I’ll never forget where I was when I nearly quit the ministry: sitting in my office at church, weeping. My wife was out of town with our children, ministering to a friend whose husband had just died from cancer. It was very early in my first pastorate. Being a senior pastor was new, different, and somewhat frightening. I was experiencing the betrayal of a church leader close to me, someone who had discipled me, mentored me, and ordained me for ministry. What began, I thought, as constructive criticism, soon turned into private and public slander. This new opposition wasn’t the…

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We Should Expect Non-Christians to Share Our Morals

A common reaction among evangelicals to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has been deflection from controversy. This laissez-faire approach has been most commonly expressed by closely connected beliefs about Christianity and morality: We should not expect non-Christians to think and live like Christians. So why all the fuss among Christians over the legalization of same-sex marriage? Since when do we depend on the government to enforce Christian morals? Many who express these sentiments do so with well-meaning attempts to (rightly) keep evangelicals from panicking over misplaced trust in temporal earthly powers. Additionally, they want to remind themselves and…

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7 Times Your ‘Righteous’ Anger Probably Isn’t

When pastors get angry, things can get complicated. On the one hand, we know that anger is not always an indication of sin. After all, we say to ourselves, Jesus got angry. Paul also counseled the Ephesians on anger, saying, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26): implying that anger is inevitable in human relationships, and that there is a way to be angry and not sin. James further cautions his readers to be “slow to become angry,” encouraging a slow emotional response, but not forbidding one outright (James 1:19). All of this seems to suggest that it’s okay…

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The Way Home: Jason Romano on forgiveness and redemption

He worked a dream job for Mike and Mike at ESPN for 18 years. But God stirred in his heart a new passion to share his own story, of forgiveness, of living with an alcoholic father, and of redemption. Show Notes Website: jasonromano.com and sportsspectrum.com Twitter: @JasonRomano and @Sports_Spectrum Book: Live to Forgive: Moving Forward When Those We Love Hurt Us

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SBC Resolution on Human Dignity

I was grateful to see the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention pass a strong resolution on human dignity. More than ever, Christians need to reclaim this biblical view and apply it to the way we see ourselves and our neighbors. I’ve included it below: WHEREAS, In the beginning, the Triune God chose to create humanity in His image and according to His likeness, such that “God created man in His own image; He created Him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Genesis 1:26–27); and WHEREAS, God judged His creation of humanity to be very…

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‘Curator’: The New Line on Your Pastor’s Job Description?

“So . . . who exactly is Tim Keller?” I can still remember when this question came from a longtime, faithful member of my church. At the time, I couldn’t believe he didn’t recognize the well-known, respected pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Had he not read The Reason for God? The Meaning of Marriage? Counterfeit Gods? Apparently not. But really, why would he? Unlike me—who had spent a majority of his adult life in Christian ministry, swimming in theology—this faithful brother worked long hours and spent very little time online. He wasn’t on Twitter. He didn’t get the latest…

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Here is the Church, but Where is the Steeple?

Several years ago, a church I pastored went through a massive remodeling effort, updating a tired, ‘90s-era look with more modern, chic, 21st-century décor. Peeling wallpaper was replaced with fresh paint. Hideous brown siding was covered over with a beautiful new stone treatment. A landscaper transformed some tired and unkempt bushes into a beautiful garden walkway. Our building, which many mistook for an abandoned union hall or a Masonic lodge, now looked, to passersby, like a place that might have signs of life. Interestingly, though, we capped off our remodeling effort by adding a steeple. Yes, you heard that right—as…

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Funeral for a Stranger

I sat in my office late on a Thursday afternoon after a week of meetings, study, and a thousand other crises big and small. By that point in the week I was thinking about what I would do on Friday: lock myself in my office, take no phone calls, and crank out the final draft of my Sunday sermon. Alas, the phone rang, and I took the call. “This is the Warren Funeral Home. We have a family requesting an evangelical funeral, and we were told you could do this.” Word had gotten out, apparently. I told the caller that, yes,…

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Who Exactly Am I Preaching To?

“Um, so, did someone tell you about Dave’s job?” an anxious member told me, as she shook my hand on the way out of the auditorium one Sunday morning. “Because it seemed like you were talking to us.” I told her this was the first I had heard of their fragile employment situation. The sermon was on fear, and we were in uncertain economic times. I had offered, in passing, an example of someone who might be nervous about his or her job. But I wasn’t specifically targeting this family. It’s difficult to know how to take this kind of…

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Boring Church Services Changed My Life

I’ve never really had a moment in my life—39 years—when I wasn’t going to church. My parents got engaged and married in the church. I was born into, raised in, and baptized in church. My parents, first-generation Christians, were devout church-goers. We went every time the doors were open—and many times when they weren’t. My father, a plumber, volunteered thousands of man-hours helping build church buildings. My mother volunteered, worked as a secretary, and later served as a preschool teacher. Since the age of five, I sat in church services: Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday night prayer meetings. I…

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The Dad I Want To Be

I wrote a piece on the vulnerability of fathering for In Touch: It’s 7:30 at night, and I’m staring at my iPhone for no apparent reason. There is no crisis in the world that requires me. No organizational issue that demands a response, and no critical communication I must conduct on behalf of my family or friends. I’m just scrolling through Twitter, aimlessly. This is probably a justifiable use of time during leisure activity or when waiting in the doctor’s office, but not at 7:30 on a weekday when the kids need my attention. And yet here I am, escaping…

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