Author Archives: Jeff Beckley

Book Review: The Pastor’s Justification

Book Review:  The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson

The Good:

Honesty is the Best Policy.  Ministry is not always rainbows that are made of Skittles.  There are difficult tasks, difficult people, and difficult situations.  Wilson does not steer away from the difficulties, but embraces them in a humble, sometimes humorous, but realistic and straightforward way.  The newbie pastor reading this book will not be sheltered, but will read a fair assessment of the daily grind of ministry.

Pastor’s Handbook.  This the pastor’s handbook of today.  It provides detailed outlook of a pastor’s role, along with the balance of daily tasks and responsibilities.  All of this, while appropriately using Biblical support and foundation for the behavior, leadership, and ministry of a pastor.

Emotional Roller-coaster.  I found myself living out the array of emojis on my phone’s keyboard.  There were moments where I would chuckle out loud.  Other times where I would sternly read the next sentence as I was being taken to the woodshed, challenged and disciplined to be better.  Then, I would be lifted up and encouraged through Scripture and the experience of the writer.  As long as you buckle up, the roller coaster experience is worth the ride.

The Bad:

N/A.  Nothing negative comes to mind.

The Grade:  A.  This book came by way of a recommendation by my pastor.  In preparation for life and ministry, he knew this would be one I needed to read.  In fact, at times, he couldn’t wait to share the lessons he was learning as he read, and would read excerpts out loud.  I was not disappointed either.  He was right, it is a must read for all those in pastoral ministry.

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Book Review: When People Are Big and God is Small

Book Review:  When People are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch

The Good:

Hard-hitting.  My man Ed does not save his words for your protection.  He is willing to ride right into battle, and is not worried about your feelings.  Instead, the author provides honest insight of human interaction, fears, and struggles in a direct way.  I appreciated it.  In a world where everyone is worried about hurting each other’s feelings, this book is concerned about doing the right thing, the right way.

All Comes Back to God.  Spoiler Alert:  All your fears of men stem from your view of God.  When you do not have a proper understanding of who God is, your fears and worries only get bigger.  The more you develop in your understanding and relationship with your Creator, the greater confidence you can have to live for Him, no matter the obstacles that stand in your way.

Life-changing Material.  As a life-long people pleaser, I can relate to nearly every chapter, paragraph, and sentence.  These are my people.  So, for me, it became a life changing operation on where my heart lies.  Life lessons that I hope will stir in me a greater desire to please God rather than men.

The Bad:

Smooth life sandpaper.  As a result of the frank, direct tone, there were time when the material was not smooth.  I appreciated the real-life examples that provided an opportunity to come up for air.  But there were times, when I felt like the temperature in the room was rising.  The conviction was a good thing, but didn’t always feel that way.

The Grade:  A.  This book is great for counseling, spiritual growth, and personal evaluation.  All of us struggle with the fear of man, and Welch does a dynamite job of breaking down the issues and providing Biblical solutions to correcting your fears into proper life patterns.

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5 Micro-Habits That Will Change the Way You Youth Work

Little late to the game, but here is my latest article for Youth Specialties.  Some great lessons here I have learned over the years that have helped me in my time management. (click on pic below)

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Book Review: Pulling Weeds, Planting Seeds

Book Review:  Pulling Weeds, Planting Seeds by Dennis Rainey

The Good:

Pulls on Your Heart Strings.  No regrets.  That is one goal each parent typically has as they give their best attempt at parenting.  Well, Dennis Rainey from the very beginning tugs on your emotions to bring you to your knees.  You want to look back at your parenting and have no regrets, but know that you followed God’s plan and did your best.  This book will help you do just that.

Can Someone Help Me Reach That?  You ever at a store and you can’t reach an item on the top shelf, but no one is there to help you out?  You know what you want, but you can’t reach it.  Some parenting and family books out there present these ideas that are so high on the shelf, you will never reach it.  Not this one.  Rainey does a masterful job at providing practical, honest, attainable advice that is reachable and attainable.

The Bible Says That.  You know how you can trust a character-building book?  If it is full of Bible verses about character.  No better source to build into one’s integrity than to tap into the book written by the Holy God.

The Bad:

Had an ending.  I’m for real.  I really enjoyed this book and was disappointed when I reached the end.  Each chapter was just a few pages and was a treat for me each night before bed.  Like a nice little spiritual snack before I hit the pillow.

Out of Print.  Very few occasions of being out of date.  However, it is an older book and is not updated with technological advances.  One other bummer is the book is out of print and used copies are the way to go.

The Grade:  A.  I went in looking to be a better parent with this book.  Instead, I came away inspired to be a better follower of God.  The approach was more than just being a better spouse or parent, although that was a big part of it.  This book took you to new challenges and presented heartfelt convictions.  You walk away from each chapter ready to lead your family, love your family, and care for you family better than yesterday.

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People Are Not Always as They Appear

(A Paraphrase of the story found in “Pulling Weeds, Planting Seeds” by Dennis Rainey.  Review to come out on the blog next week!)

A man named Bill Howard was boarding a packed flight, already frustrated at finding a seat. As he looked up, he noticed a disfigured man trying to find a seat, all the while noticing others were uncomfortably staring at him.

The two men ended up sitting next to each other. As they sat down, Bill notices the mutilated hands, missing ears, skin only partially covering the nostrils of his nose.

Mustering up his courage, Bill began to talk with the man and asked him if it was OK if he could hear the story behind his burns. The man, named Johnny, said he would rather talk to someone than be stared at.

He shared he was at a rest stop gas station when a car pulled out in front of a gas tanker truck. The truck jack-knifed, rolled, burst into flames and covered nearly 70 people with burning fuel, including Johnny & his father…who were both engulfed into flames.

The story doesn’t stop there – Johnny saw an old man stuck under a steel rod. So, while on fire, Johnny lifted the rod off the old man’s chest to save his life…and burnt his fingers off.

Story ends w/ Johnny accepting Christ on the plane.  It was a divine appointment for Bill & his new friend.  People are not always as they appear.  Underneath the scars and burns – Johnny was a kind hero.

Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with someone.  Be bold in your witness.  Don’t judge someone on their appearance.  Look at others as God sees them…by their heart.

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Book Review: Sacred Parenting

Book Review:  Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas

The Good:

I’m Gonna Be Honest.  The author held to a commitment to honesty throughout the book.  Using personal examples, he was able to present an honest and realistic approach to Biblical parenting.  The “perfect parent” band-aid was ripped off pretty quickly, disarming the reader to identify with the principles presented.

The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me.  Most parents of small children have to choose wisely what parenting books they read.  Both for content and for the sake of time.  So, if I’m going to read a parenting book, if it has a firm foundation in Scripture, my time and content satisfaction is enhanced.

Challenge Accepted.  Are you sure you want to be challenged as a parent?  Are you really sure?  Thomas has an incredible talent of laying out parental challenges that lie ahead that are convicting but irresistible.  You cannot help but continue turning pages to discover new challenges around every corner.

The Bad:

My Heart Hurts.  Not exactly a bad thing.  Maybe you need an antacid…or maybe it’s the convicting power of God’s Word.  But the author presents challenges that are daggers straight to the heart.  TUMS may have calcium, but no pill can take away the heart aches of parenting.  The honesty of the book is refreshing, but at times is difficult to accept.

The Grade:  A.  As a parent and youth & family pastor, I regularly read parenting books and articles.  This writing has vaulted to the top tier of parenting resources.  Honest, convicting, and insightful are some of the descriptions that come to mind.  Thomas does not take the easy way out, but provides a road map for spiritual formation parenting, both in the child and the parent.  You will walk away from this book changed.

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Book Review: In Praise of Plodders

Book Review:  In Praise of Plodders by Warren Wiersbe

The Good:

Struck Gold.  This is an absolute gold mine for pastors and ministry workers.  There is so much wisdom in its pages and Wiersbe does not let up from the first pages to the last.

Pastoral Training.  From the Sunday pulpit to the days in between, the reader will be trained to be a good shepherd to his people.  Good reminders, encouragement, and even warnings are given to the reader.  Wiersbe provides insight into ministry that only a grisly veteran could provide.

Whose Line is it Anyway?  I’ve said this before about Wiersbe…he provides the best one-liners that you can just take to the bank.  But, in this book, he relies on pastors of today and yesterday to provide incredible knowledge and teaching to the pastor of old and young.

The Bad:

Repeats Occasionally.  Because these were excerpts from a Christian newsletter, there are occasions where the author repeats information.  But, because the information is so valuable, is it really a bad thing if you read it more than once?

The Grade:  A+.  This was my favorite pastoral ministry book that I have read thus far in my ministry.  Wiersbe has a talent for providing enough push to drive the minister to greater heights, while balancing enough encouragement to push through difficulty and tough sledding.  This book should be on the shelf of every pastor within arm’s length of their desk.  I wouldn’t leave home without it.

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Characteristics of a Gen Z Youth Ministry

Had the privilege of attending and speaking at the Teen Leadership Conference at Clarks Summit University.  There I was part of a National Youth Ministries Conference that featured incredible speakers who spoke on ways to impact Generation Z for Christ.

Studying the different generations is fascinating to me, and it is important to understand the characteristics of each generation.  Especially since there most likely is 7 generations in your church on a given Sunday.  Seven!

Do you know the leadership style of the Generation Z?  What impact is social media having on this generation?  Mental health seems to be an issue, how do you help students who are struggling?  These are all issues we discussed in the seminar.

My job was to answer the question:  “What does a Generation Z Youth Ministry look like?”  Here’s a checklist to help you in your quest to reach this generation.  I encourage you to check it out, and feel free to add more in the comments.

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The Pastor’s Book

Book Review:  The Pastor’s Book by R. Kent Hughes

The Good: 

Re-Print!  Maybe the editor missed something.  Instead of “The Pastor’s Book”, would it be more appropriately named “The Pastor’s Textbook”.  The reader will have the experience of sitting in a classroom listening to elder pastors reveal the foundation of pastoral care and leadership.

You Again?  This is a book that will have a place on the shelf within reach.  Would be wise to use a note-card to note all the pages that can be used for various ministries and situations.  For example, you have a wedding coming up?  Well, turn to page 137 to find how to appoint a wedding coordinator.  A few pages later you will find script for a wedding ceremony.  Before all this you can find pre-marital counseling help.  I’m telling you, so many scenarios where this book will give you the full package.

But How Does That Make You Feel?  A guest writer comes in towards the end of the book to discuss pastoral counseling and knocks it out of the park.  You like detail, well this guy talks about how to walk your counselee in the room, position your furniture, and how to be silent.  I’m not being sarcastic, it is incredible practical and dynamite for the pastoral counseling.

The Bad:

Half a Hundo?  Yes, it is expensive.  On sale now on Amazon, but it usually sells for around $50.  This was given to me by a gracious family, and I’m so glad they did.  All that being said, it is worth the price of admission.  Think of it as a seminary level class, and the price does not seem so bad.

The Grade:  A.  Although I’ve been a pastor for about a decade or so, I still know I have much to learn about the pastorate.  Weddings, counseling, funerals, communion, and the list goes on.  No book could review all the scenarios, but this one covers the ins and outs of ministry quite well.  Pastors of all experience levels should have this on their shelf to better shepherd their flock.

If you are looking for a much better review, click here.

 

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Book Review: Start With the Heart

Book Review:  Start With the Heart by Kathy Koch

The Good:

What’s a Parent?  Excellent introduction to the book and the first chapter is worth the price of admission.  The beginning to the book provides a parenting summary that is very well done and worth the read.

Off The Charts.  The diagrams and charts were very well done.  These charts and diagrams are valuable tools in parenting and provide tangible ways to improve your parenting.

Well Organized.  Something I appreciate is a well-organized anything.  Well, Dr. Koch does a superb job of organizing her data, information, and instruction.  The chapter headings, book flow, and organization were all top notch to allow for a smooth read.

The Bad:

Discipline Light?  There were times when I thought the discipline was a bit light.  This could have been on purpose to allow parents to apply their own discipline based on their parenting style.  However, there were times when it seemed to care about the feelings of the child more than a disciplined way of parenting.

More practical than spiritual.  As a pastor, obviously I lean more toward spiritual-heavy, but to be fair, this was not the point of the book.  This was a motivational book, not as much a spiritual tool.  However, when the Scriptural support was evident and appreciated.

The Grade: B.  Highly practical and useful tool for any parent.  Loved the explanations and defined attributes of parenting.  Not at the top of my list, but valuable enough to recommend for parents of young children.

 

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