Book Reviews: Andy’s 2023 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


THE POSTMODERN PILGRIM’S PROGRESS by Kyle Mann and Joel Berry

Mann and Berry write a funny and entertaining allegory of the Christian life. It is a light read with a powerful reminder of how we get sidetracked with many varieties of ways we live our Christian lives. They do a good job reminding us of the main purpose of the Christian life, to keep on going forward in the journey toward a true relationship with the King!

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2023 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


LIVE LIKE JESUS: Discover the power and impact of your true identity – by Putty Putman

Live Like Jesus: Discover the power & impact of your true identity, by Putty Putman

This is one of the best books I have read on the reality of our life in Christ. Putman asks questions and looks for answers that many Christians are afraid to ask. He does a good job asking questions that make a person think, and thus find answers that the average person is not looking for. If you want to be challenged in your walk with Jesus, this is the book you need to read.

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2023 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


STARTING AGAIN WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE GIVING UP – by John F. Westfall

In Starting Again When You Feel Like Giving Up, John F. Westfall addresses the issue of feeling life has gone in such a terrible direction that it is sometimes hard to get back up. Life can be disappointing and disheartening when things go wrong and our goals are not achieved. I appreciate how, as he encourages the ones trying to get up, he addresses risk. Here are a healthy risks he thinks are worth taking. He expounds on the following:

  1. Risk getting turned down.
  2. Risk failing.
  3. Risk being misunderstood.
  4. Risk saying, “I love you”.
  5. Risk being yourself.
  6. Risk not being good enough.
  7. Risk being good enough.
  8. Risk getting hurt.

This might be just the book if you are struggling and trying to get back up again.

5 Steps to Maintaining Unity When Confronting Divisive Issues

We can all do a pretty good job of getting along when everything is going our way. We can enjoy time with people and think they are pretty good friends. Life is good when no one challenges me or my ideas. But what do we do when someone we thought we were on good terms with ends up on the opposite side of an issue?

The church I am presently serving is facing an issue that is fairly divisive. I won’t tell you what the issue is. You can insert your own issue as I address how we are attempting to maintain unity even as we deal with a divisive issue.

  1. Clarify the Issue

Whatever the issue is that you as a church or organization or team are facing, make sure that you clarify the issue. We thought we had been quite clear on the issue, but we realized that even after weeks of talking about it, people were confused. Do everything you can to make sure everyone knows exactly what you are talking about.

I remember a story of three men going into business together. They had rented a building and were setting up their restaurant. And then a problem arose. One of the men started talking about where he wanted the buffet area. A second interrupted him and told him clearly that a buffet was not part of the plan. They were going to have people come to the counter to order and pick up their meals. By now the third man was getting a little agitated. “I thought this was a fish and chips place!” We have to clarify the issue, and sometimes it means talking about it again and again to get down to what the real issue is so effective communication can take place.

2. Gather Supporting Information

For us, this was a decision that would affect some of our bylaws, so we had to make sure people understood what the bylaw was that was affected by the decision we were about to make. It was an issue that we believed had spiritual connotations, so we made sure to provide documents to our membership with scripture verses and explanations of how they spoke into the question at hand. We did some historical checking to see how this situation had been handled in the past. We even contacted our denominational office to get their input.

3. Prayer

We made sure to pray about this event. We encouraged people to pray on their own, we prayed about it in our services, and we prayed about it at leadership meetings. We prayed about it at discussion meetings we had regarding this question. We asked God to give us clarity and unity in the process.

4. Discussion Events

We hosted one formal evening of discussion on the topic. We recognized that there were people on either side of the question. Each side felt they had scriptural backing to why they believed what they believed. We determined not to enter into a debate. We did not want to set up a situation where we caused people to publicly take sides against each other. So we arranged for a time to carefully look at both sides of the issue. We invited people to speak up, but only in a positive way. No one was allowed to speak against an issue, they could only speak for their side. In this way, everyone was given opportunity to speak into the issue without it being against an individual.

As an aside, it was very encouraging to me as we ended that Discussion Evening, that many present stated their commitment to the unity of the church even if the vote did not go their way when decision time came. They were more concerned about protecting unity as one family or body, than about fighting for their point of view!

5. Make a Decision

At some point you have to decide how you will answer the question at hand. Like us, you may want to have a formal vote by the membership. You will need to decide at which level of authority in your church or organization that decision needs to be made. We encouraged our people to vote as their conscience directed after all the discussion and prayer we had. And then, whatever way the vote went, we trusted that God spoke into our situation and moved ahead according to the results of the vote.

Once a decision has been made, it is important to recognize that not everyone will agree with the decision as you move forward. Be alert to situations where people are having a hard time accepting the decision and take time to walk them as they process the results. You may need to meet with some individuals who are slow in processing the results so that you can help them move forward, encouraging them to trust God will continue to walk with us even as we trusted him to guide our decision process.

May God guide you with divisive issues you face. Too often, we become so closely tied to the issue that we would rather cause disunity than lose out on a vote. May God guide you and help you maintain unity as you too work through issues that could divide.

I would love to hear how you have worked through divisive issues and what worked for you. Let me know. Comment or email me.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

The Main Event: Creating Worship Experiences Your Church Will Love

I usually write about leadership or spiritual issues. I also do book reviews on books I have read. Today is different – I will give you part of the introduction to a book I recently published. Here it is.

CRAFTING A WORSHIP EXPERIENCE

It is possible to create worship services that your church will hate to miss. Every week pastors and church leaders around the world prepare for the Main Event at their church, hoping it will impact their congregation in some way. Whatever it is called locally, and whatever day it takes place, every church has a Main Event where the whole congregation comes together to worship Jesus and to encourage each other. This is often the key means through which a church disciples their people. Most have other programs as well, but this is the one event that most people attend and engage with. We need to make it the best event it can be. I believe this requires creativity to help the congregation feel more involved and connected to what happens during the service. Churches need to find ways of making their Main Event less of a performance and more of an experience.

Each church has their own expression of worship. These vary greatly from one church to another. Each church has a certain expectation of what will take place and how it will be done. Some are quite somber; some are extremely exuberant. Some are very strict about the time; others are very flexible. Some have a clearly laid out agenda that rarely changes, while others change formats frequently. Some churches have services that are fine-tuned performances, where everything is practiced or even performed by professionals, and the agenda is planned out to the precise minute. In other churches, the agenda is loosely put together. They may start late and run late, but no one minds. In others, congregations have expectations of when the service has to conclude. In one church I served there was an older couple who just got up and walked out at 12:00, whether the service was done or not.

Though much of a service varies from church to church, most churches share some common characteristics when it comes to their Main Event. Typically, the experience of the congregation is more like that of an audience with very little participation. The congregation is invited to sing along with the worship songs, or maybe participate in responsive readings or prayers when prompted, but in many cases the congregation does little more than sit and watch the performance at the front.

When I was a young pastor in the 90’s, the big push was to have “seeker sensitive” worship services, and it was very effective for some. Seeker services often were designed and performed with a high level of excellence. Some churches hired professional musicians. Others made sure they had only the best speakers. The seeker service was something that people attended to enjoy, a little like going to the opera or even a sporting event, where the audience is there to watch, and maybe cheer occasionally. They may be invited to sing along to some songs but not many, as the emphasis was more on a great performance, than on participatory worship. This was appropriate for the time as there were still many people who had a bit of a church background and were just looking for something “better,” or more “real.” They were truly “seeking.” While many people came to know Jesus through this style of worship service, times have changed where people are looking for an experience and not just a performance.

Experiential Worship

I believe the time has come for us to move to a more experiential worship event. Churches need to find ways to invite people to participate in the worship service. This may mean including more volunteers in the actual creation and leadership of the event instead of just staff, or it may mean finding ways to invite the congregation to participate more during the event.

Those who are entrusted with the task of creating meaningful worship experiences need to realize that the next generation wants to be more involved in the service. Gary Collins, shares some research about the values of the younger emerging generation, and I believe what he says has great impact for churches and pastors as they craft the weekly Main Event in a way that will reach the next generation. Here are a few of his key concepts to consider:

  • Values and experiences are more important than vision casting and reaching goals;
  • Images and stories are more valued than words and facts;
  • Active participation and ownership are preferred over passive submission to authority and professional expertise; and
  • Spirituality is valued, religion is not.[i]

It is time to evaluate why we create our worship services the way we do. It is time we determine to find ways of inviting people to enter into the whole worship experience from start to finish. Young people are less impressed with excellence than previous generations were. They would rather see authenticity and be invited to participate in the experience. I want to help you create participatory and multisensory worship experiences.

If you are looking for ways to invite your congregation into an experience every worship service, then you are in the right place. This book will encourage you to create your service in such a way that those in attendance feel they are part of what is going on instead of watching a performance. Each chapter will look at one specific aspect of a worship service. We will look at how to invite more participation where those in attendance are invited to an experience they can engage with.

When I arrived as a new pastor at one church, I discovered that the church had used the same general service agenda for the last five years with little or no change. I, personally, have a hard time with that. While there may be something comforting about knowing exactly what to expect and when, I love to be creative, and as their pastor, wanted to give them some variety. This desire to be creative impacts my leadership style so much so, that at a different church, a senior commented, “Andy, I never know what to expect when I show up on Sunday.” He meant it as a compliment. He liked the variety. It wasn’t that every Sunday was extremely different, but no two Sundays were the same. I changed the order of service most Sundays. Sometimes the sermon would be earlier in the service, or we would change the number of worship songs. My goal was to allow the theme of the sermon to guide how best to create each service. The idea was to craft each Sunday’s service around a specific text and theme, and to communicate that theme in creative and interactive ways.

I remember taking our two daughters to a creative and interactive experience when they were young; it was a football game. The team ownership had realized that even a football game had to have a larger experience. Our girls were thrilled to watch the mascot. If you were fortunate, you could catch one of the plush footballs they threw up into the stands when the team scored. Cheerleaders were dancing and jumping, some being thrown in the air. Young men and women were running up and down the stairs offering all kinds of drinks, food, and candy. This was an experience beyond just the football game. If you were not a true fan and were just there with family members who were, you could still have an enjoyable experience…

To purchase The Main Event, click here.


[i] Gary R. Collins, Christian Coaching: Helping Others Turn Potential into Reality (Colorado Springs, CO.: Navpress, 2002), 323.

Growing Your Joy

A new year often brings New Years resolutions. Many people make them, and while few keep them, the idea of making commitments to improve your life is a good one. Resolutions are often about our personal health like losing weight or becoming more fit. Again, not a bad idea. Some may make commitments about their career. Maybe they want to pursue another level at their job or more education hoping that will result in a financial boost in income down the road.

But what about personal growth? What about growing in your joy? We all know that people of joy are much more fun to work with than people with no joy. And we personally feel better if we have joy inside as well.

Are you a person of joy? Do you share joy or do people sense a dark cloud over your head every time you walk by? What is it in your life that affects your Joy?

Our joy can be impacted by a number of things. If you always spend time with negative people, it will be hard to stay positive and maintain joy. It is not always possible to avoid spending time with negative people, especially if your co-workers or family are negative. What you can do, is choose to seek out and spend time with joyful people. If you have to look for them, then do that. Notice the people in life that make you feel just a bit happier and find ways to connect with them. You could even initiate a coffee date to deliberately spend some time with them.

Our joy may be impacted by the news. If you always consume the news, you will have to work at being full of joy because the news rarely shares positive stories. Make a commitment to cut down on how much news you consume. You might need to reduce your time on social media. Rather than cut these habits out completely, identify new habits that can take the place of the time you typically spend consuming new or other media

Some of us have a hard life. Things have not gone the way we hoped and dreamed. Our realities include single parenting, the loss of a child, or unemployment. The circumstances of our life can affect our joy. We can become sad, or discouraged, or even angry about what life has thrown at us. We look around and see happy people with good families and healthy children and perfect jobs and we get even more discouraged. The truth is, there are some things that we encounter in our life that are not good, terrible in fact. And yes, they drain all our joy. What can we do about that? I’ve been there, where I questioned God about what He was allowing to happen to me. I get it.

What do we do when we cannot change our life circumstances right now? How do we find joy?

One of the things that has helped me a lot is my faith in God. Yes, I said earlier that I have had times where I really questioned God, wondering if He really cared for me or not. But I have always come back to God because He and I have history together – a history of him being faithful in the past, and answering prayers. When I come back to God, I can trust Him to take care of me. I know that I am safe in His hands. I remember that He loves me, even when it seems others don’t. I remember that He has a future for me.

I can go to the Psalms in the Bible and receive encouragement there, that begins to open up the possibility of Joy again.

Psalm 62:8

O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

Psalm 2: 12

What joy for all who take refuge in him!

Psalm 4:7

You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.

Psalm 28:7

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Our joy can be affected by our circumstances. Sometimes we can change them, and then we should. Sometimes we can’t. I would encourage you to turn to God. Turn to the Bible. Read the psalms. And ask God to give you new Joy.

As you make commitments for personal growth this year, I encourage you to choose to develop more joy.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW – By John Eldredge

Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus by John Eldredge is a book that will shock some people while encouraging others. He writes about Jesus, but not in the distant manner that we often think of him. Eldredge presents Jesus as a human in a way that few, if any, have before. It is a great reminder that Jesus was a human who walked this earth in a certain place in time within a specific community and with other human friends. Eldredge points out where Jesus responds with emotion like any other human person. He, in his words, is trying to “clear the religious fog” around who our Lord and Saviour Jesus was and is. Do you want to know Jesus better? This book will help you in that search. Your ideas may be challenged, but I do believe the person of Jesus will be revealed as a person you can actually communicate with and live your life with.

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


SWEPT AWAY BY HIS PRESENCE – by Ron Auch

The subtitle of the book is: Refreshing the Church with the Power of Prayer. Ron Auch is calling the church back to prayer. He writes from a Pentecostal background, reminding the reader of the early revivals such as the Asuza Street Revival. In chapter 3 Auch points out how the first generations who experience God have a much different faith experience than the second, and how the third generation often has lost any experience of God. He calls the present generation back to prayer and a real and alive relationship with God. And he says prayer is the way to get that real relationship again. While the book is a little older (1997), the call to prayer is needed just as much today as it was back then.

One Powerful Tool of a Leader

A Christian leader faces the same challenges that any other leader does. And a Christian leader can help himself to any of the tools other leaders use to help them lead well. But the Christian leader has one powerful tool that others do not. Prayer.

Like any tool, it may take some practice and some skill to access this tool’s full potential. Often when we think of prayer, we think of asking God to do something for us. We come to him with a request. But that is only one aspect of prayer.

Another way to use prayer is to learn to listen to God. We are so used to telling God our problems and asking him to do something about them, and that is often where a Christian leader stops. Yet if we learn to listen, God will do much more for us through prayer than just respond to our grocery list of requests.

Here are some of the ways that I have benefited from this great tool we have.

  • God encourages through prayer.

Every leader faces opposition from time to time in their leadership, and Christian leaders are not exempt. As a pastor, I have faced opposition many times, both from inside and outside the church I have been asked to lead. People have called me names, accused me of being controlling, demanded I be removed from my position, and more. People have not liked what I stood for and deliberately chosen to walk in a different direction. I have faced opposition from within myself. There are times I have been disappointed in what my leadership accomplished. I have been disappointed in goals not met. I have been discouraged and depressed.

These are not uncommon problems for leaders to face. There are times we need encouragement. We might find some of it in books or in encouraging words from other leaders or supporters of ours. But I have found that some of the most powerful encouragement has come directly from God.

God has encouraged me as I listened to him. One time he told me: “you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” This was powerful for me as I had just come through one of the most difficult times in my ministry. Another time, God affirmed that I was on the right track. I was a little unsure of the direction to lead the church and in a conversation with Him, I heard (or felt) Him say, “You are on the right track. Just keep going.”

God encourages the Christian leader through listening prayer where we actually hear God or sense God speaking words of encouragement to us.

  • God directs through prayer.

Every leader needs to know where they are going. They need to know where they are trying to take their organization. They need to know the priorities of the day. Sometimes we get caught up in the urgent needs of the moment and begin to veer off track from our intended goals. I love the fact that I can talk with God about my day and ask Him for direction for the day. I am serving as a Transition Pastor right now and have a limited time to work with the church through the various exercises. There are times when I have had to readjust my schedule because it just was not working. As I talked with God about it, I was able to patiently let him give me the priorities of the week.

  • God instructs through prayer.

One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to instruct and remind the believer of God’s truth. When we pray, we are able to hear God speaking to us through the Holy Spirit. There are times we will be reminded of certain scriptures that speak into a situation that we are facing. There will be times when we will be given an idea or a concept to put into practice that clearly did not come from our own wisdom but from God.

If we pray and read scripture together, God uses those scriptures we are reading to give us insight into how and what we should be learning and doing in our leadership.

There are many tools available to leaders today. One of the best and most powerful tools the Christian leader can access is prayer and hearing God speak directly into their leadership. Pray, not just with a list of requests for God, but with a listening attitude and God will direct your paths.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


FIRE & WIND: Unleashing the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit – by Stan Jantz

Stan Jantz writes from the perspective of one who has not always understood or appreciated the Holy Spirit. The Introduction begins like this: “My name is Stan, and I have ignored the Holy Spirit for too long.” He then walks through his learning experience and what a difference it has made in his life to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit. This book would be especially good for anyone who has had little experience of the Holy Spirit in their life but who would like to know and experience more. He quotes from a number of writers of old who wrote extensible about the Holy Spirit, people like A. W. Tozer, A. B. Simpson, and R. A. Torrey. A great read.