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.


DISCIPLINES OF A GODLY MAN – R. Kent Hughes

Disciplines of a Godly Man is a call to men in the church and home to stand up and be whom God has called them to be. Kent Hughes challenges men to step up and discipline themselves with chapters dealing on personal soul issues, relationships, character, and ministry. The church is looking for good men to give themselves to the work of ministry. God is looking for good men to give themselves to leading in the home, the church, and in the culture. Hughes does a good job reminding us that this is not about legalism: doing something in order to gain God’s favor. In fact, this is the opposite. This is about living in such a way that we honor the One who already loves us and calls us to a disciplined life of faith in Him. This would be a great book to walk through with a Men’s Group.

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.

MASTER LEADERS – by George Barna

If you want some leadership tips from a number of leaders in one book, this is it. Barna has interviewed thirty leaders and summarized their responses into sixteen keys to success. The leaders are from various backgrounds: Politics, business, sports, etc. The leaders share from their own experiences, including good examples of how they followed through or fell short of the leadership tips they are sharing. This is an excellent book for anyone wanting a good primer on leadership.

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.


UNBURDENED – by Vance Pitman

This is among the TOP 3 books of the year so far! I know that I often describe the book I am reviewing as good, this one is great. Unburdened: Stop Living for Jesus so Jesus Can Live Through You is a much needed book for today’s Christian. We get so caught up in “doing what I need to do” to be a good Christian, that we slip into religion and loose the relationship with Jesus. Vance Pitman states in the Introduction: “The Christian life is not me living for Jesus but Jesus living His life in and through me.” Instead of having a list of do’s and don’ts to become a better Christian, work at building your relationship with Jesus. The more time you spend with Him, in tune with Him, listening to Him, and obeying Him, the more like Jesus you will become. Pitman describes our purpose as a Christian: God brought you to Himself so out of the outflow of your intimate relationship with Him – which is Christ in you, working through you – you could share in His mission locally and globally in fellowship with others.” The key in all of that is to pursue an intimate relationship with Jesus and the rest will flow out of you naturally. A great book that you will be challenged and encouraged by as a Christian.

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.


AQUACHURCH 2.0by Leonard Sweet

AQUACHURCH 2.0: Piloting Your Church in Today’s Fluid Culture uses the metaphor of water to teach on the church and it’s role in today’s culture. He addresses many aspects of church ministry, even chapters on “Risk Taking” and “Intuition” which most other church leadership books do not include. He is encouraging churches to be more aware of the culture we live in and minister in so we can understand how best to differentiate between places we join in and times we act counter-culturally. He makes a point of saying, “For leaders, not having a Web ministry is more than being without a calling card, not using a Web site as a communications and community-building tool is to have fumbled the future.” That is an appropriate message to the many churches who went to online service through Covid but have not chosen to have a meaningful online presence going forward. This book is a great resource for any church leader.

The Church Needs More Creativity

Our Bible begins with the Creator at work, creating our world. When He makes people, they are created in the “image” of God, as creators themselves. While different animals are incredibly industrious and clever, humans are set apart from the animal world by our ability to think through problems and find new solutions and create new things.

Merriam-Webster online defines “create” like this:

  • To bring into existence
  • To invest with a new form, office, or rank
  • To produce or bring about by a course of action or behavior
  • To produce through imaginative skill

Create with a twist on what already exists

God brings into existence something out of nothing. We, as humans, have to use what is already available to create something new or different. Even the creativity of thought or speech builds on the thoughts and words of others.

Creativity uses and builds on what others have created. Of course, we need to acknowledge other’s works and do not want to claim something as ours when it isn’t, but we usually create out of what already exists.

As a church, too often, we buy curriculum and programs that others have found to be useful. We run programs and events that have been effective elsewhere. These can be great options for times when we do not need to “re-invent the wheel” and use materials that others have invested in developing.

Even when we purchase a complete program, we often realize there are aspects that don’t quite fit. In order for the program to work well in our own situation, we need to implement frequent evaluations of our programs and events, and be open and flexible to make changes. These changes require a sense of creativity to consider what we could take out and add to improve the pre-made materials for our situation. We may also find that there are times when we are better off creating our own completely new program that more appropriately contributes to our ministry as a church. Just because a club program works well in large urban centers in the United States does not mean it will transfer to rural northern Alberta. While the teaching may still transfer, the application part may have to be adapted to connect with rural northern kids.

Stretch yourself to think creatively

We need to learn how to be creative. Many of us had all our creativity schooled out of us. We were forced to colour within the lines for too long. We no longer know how to think outside of what already exists. We need to stretch our creative muscles and limber them up so that we can think of things that do not exist yet, building something new on something old. This could be through reading and listening on a variety of subjects. It could be dreaming and brainstorming as a team. It could be learning how to take aspects from many different places to put together something that is new and different, and perfect for what we are hoping to accomplish.

Being creative is not an individual task. Instead, seek creative input from people in your community. Talk to people in different fields to learn how their knowledge and experience could be adapted to work in the church. For example, what might we learn from someone’s expertise in trees about how to structure small groups? Or how might talking to an electrician spark ideas for discipleship?

Areas for creativity in the church

As we focus in on church ministry, creativity can add some new life in almost every area!

The Worship Service – Our worship services have not changed much in decades. We may sing less hymns and more worship songs and we may use versions of the Bible with up-to-date language, but the service as a whole still consists of singing, prayer, scripture reading, and preaching much as it did years ago. Even if we don’t get creative with the outline and contents of the service, we could benefit from creative ways of doing these essential pieces of our worship traditions.

What if we celebrated communion with different stations spread around the room where we could physically enter into confession, repentance, and celebrating the forgiveness Christ offers? We could write sins on paper and run them through a shredder or nail them to a cross.

What if we built on the message of the sermon by inviting people to discuss the application of the lesson and promise to hold each other accountable to follow through on our commitments? Not only would this invite more participation in the service, but encourage engagement with one another throughout the week.

Discipleship – This has been one of the most talked about topic in my church circles over the last decade or two. How do we best disciple others? How do we grow as disciples of Jesus ourselves? Often the process is built on information. We teach people scriptural truths and encourage them to memorize verses. Could we borrow ideas from the trades where people progress through stages of practical learning along with class time? Maybe we could apprentice new believers through stages of learning and development. What if we “walked” through life together? An apprentice disciple could be in touch with their mentor throughout the day, perhaps checking in at certain times, and being available for advice and prayer? We need to creatively find ways of doing this better.

Children’s Ministry – Every church has some type of ministry for their children, and often they are very similar. Could we be creative in how we help our children get to know Jesus and grow in their faith in Him? Yes, use all kinds of media, and creatively insert “old-school” ideas that we enjoyed as children that our youngsters have never experienced. Sometimes creativity may mean re-creating something old with a new twist. You could use puppets, play a video, or have them record their own video on a topic. Find ways to engage them physically through games or dance or hands on interactive learnings stations.

Creativity is the means, not the end goal.

While our desire is to be creative, that is not our goal! While it may be nice to be known as a creative church, the creativity is only meant to help us reach our other goals and to engage more people in the process. As a church, God has called us to reach and teach people; to come to faith in Jesus and to grow as a disciple. Creativity can help us get people’s attention and keep them interested. Creativity can be the container that carries our goals forward. The colour and shape and size of the container helps draw attention. Who wants to watch black and white movies when you can watch them in High Definition colour?

Let’s learn to stretch our creative muscles prayerfully and creatively to be the best church offering the best programs you can!

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

God Repels Sin

“God is not repelled by our sin.

Our sin is repelled by God.”

Tony Kriz (Aloof)

Somewhere, many followers of Jesus have gotten the unfortunate idea that when we sin we push God away from us. In this way of thinking, because God is holy and cannot stand sin, God will not be anywhere near our sin – much less near us, the sinner.

Don’t lose sight of God while desiring to be right with God.

This thought causes us to develop a perspective of “working really hard not to sin.” That is a tiring and fruitless endeavor. We become people of the law, people of rules.

We memorize the “thou shalt not’s” and make up others. We say we want to get closer to God and yet our focus is intently on our sin. We work so hard to prevent sin that we forget why we try to avoid sin in the first place. We lose sight of God by the very effort we hoped would make us right with God.

If we find ourselves viewing life from this perspective, that’s a sign that it is time to reorient our thinking. We need to realize that God is not repelled by our sin. In fact, he came to face it head on.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

-Romans 5: 6-11 (NLT)

Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins. He willingly took all our sin on himself so that he could pay the death penalty for it for us. God arranged this in order for us to become right with him.

In his book, Aloof: Figuring out life with a God who hides, Tony Kriz adds, “We do not experience God by avoiding sin, we overcome sin by pressing into God.” We need to pay less attention to how much sin we have committed and pay more attention to the one who loves us and sent his Son to die for us, even while we were full of sin. Instead of focusing on what not to do, we need to focus on what to do to grow in relationship with God.

Trade information for relation

We need to shift our focus onto God. Press in to a relationship with Him in any and every way we can and get to know him. Bible reading is one way to get to know God. It’s important that we don’t just learn information but grow in relationship with him. Let’s listen and watch for how scripture reveals God’s heart for us. Allow scripture to be our conversation together.

As we focus on God and our relationship with him, we can read biographies and learn from Christian leaders of the past who have pursued God and how they experienced a relationship with Him.

We can read about Corrie Ten Boom forgiving her German captors. We can read of George Mueller and his complete faith in God’s provision for his hungry orphans. We can learn from those who had a relationship with God that allowed them to live boldly and confidently in the grace of God.

Trade monolog for dialogue

Rather than focusing on our sin and what we are not doing, we can shift our focus to God and what he has to say to us through regular conversations with Him. I learned how to talk to God from an early age. It started with a few memorized prayers for bedtime or before meals and graduated to imitating adults. Over time I learned how to express my needs to God with my own words, even pouring out my heart to God. But unfortunately, I was not taught how to have a conversation with God. To pursue God instead of living a life focused on “not sinning,” I need to be able to talk with him as a friend. Romans 5, above, says that through Christ we become friends of God. Friends have conversations. I needed to learn how to listen to God so that my monolog turned into a dialogue.

This does not mean I have quit sinning, but that I have quit dwelling on my sin and go quickly and regularly back to God and pursue Him. As I recognize sin – as God points it out – I confess my sin and renew my focus on God.

I encourage you to “press in” to God, dig deeper into a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and as you focus more on Him you will be less inclined to be drawn into sin. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to both remind us of what He taught and to remind us of our sin. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as you deepen your relationship with God.

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.


ALOOF: Figuring Out Life With A God Who Hides – by Tony Kriz

If you are looking for an easy read that packs a punch, this is for you! Tony Kriz walks through his life experience of pursuing a relationship with a God who is often in the shadows. He shares some great stories where God did something miraculous but also makes it clear that these are few and far in between. He does a great job of showing how God is continually there, even when we do not see Him or feel near to Him. Tony is very honest about his personally journey while asking great questions that make the reader think. And there is nothing wrong with thinking deeply about God! A great book for anyone who wants to go deeper with God!

The Thirst of Humanity

One of the fundamental questions of life is this: Does my life have meaning?

Wrapped up in that question are others. Why am I here? Do I have a role to play? Where do I fit? Can I do something of meaning? What is my purpose?

There is a basic thirst in all humanity to find meaning in life. Everyone wants to find some meaning and value in what they do. And they look for answers in all kinds of places. Some try to fill that thirst with experiences and so they do all kinds of things hoping something will satisfy. They may choose to enhance or even remove the feeling of reality with drugs and drinking. Some chase achievements, some look to “just provide a good life for my family.” Others look to fame. Some look to “leave a legacy” so their name will remain alive long after they are gone. Everyone is searching for that satisfaction that will finally quench their thirst.

The search is on for that elixir that will truly satisfy. This search has carried people in many different directions. If you have attended college or university you will probably have come across some of the following people and their ideas.

  • Albert Camus wrote in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” According to Camus, life is entirely without meaning.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre argued for dealing with the meaninglessness of life by creating our own meaning. We decide, not God, or any other person, what we find meaning in.
  • Augustine of Hippo and Blaise Pascal, though many years apart have both been connected to the idea of a “God-shaped hole” in mankind, or an “infinite abyss”, that Pascal wrote in Pensées, “this he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are...” Looking for something that doesn’t exist, outside of God.

Solomon, King of Israel, declared in his book, Ecclesiastes, “Everything is meaningless… completely meaningless! …I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 14).

Solomon’s journey for meaning led him to seek pleasure and wisdom and hard work, and found none of these pursuits were fulfilling. In Ecclesiastes 3: 14 he says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” There is something in the human heart that longs for more. This is reminiscent of the “God shaped hole” or “infinite abyss” that is longing to be filled, to be satisfied. This thirst that is longing to be quenched.

Solomon journeys on, looking at the injustices of life, the futility of political endeavors and chasing after and gaining wealth. He points out that everyone dies. So what is the value of the time of our existence?

In chapter 11 Solomon encourages both the old and young to treasure their days, and reminds them that God is part of the answer to our thirst for meaning. Yet he still views life as meaningless.

When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless.

Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 11: 8-9)

In the end Solomon concludes “Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14.)

His final conclusion is we need to recognize that God has the final say about our meaning and value. He is the final judge. Our job is to obey him and find meaning in that obedience to God. There is no meaning in all other pursuits, except in honoring God in those pursuits.

The thirst of humanity cannot be satisfied with any other pursuit than that which brings us into a relationship with the One who made us. God created us to have a relationship with Him. Any pursuit that looks for satisfaction outside of that relationship will never satisfy. To look for contentment outside of what we were created for will only bring more dissatisfaction and frustration.

To use a drill to pound a nail or a file to chop wood is ridiculous and frustrating. We need to come to God who created us for relationship with Him, and as we honor and worship him our craving will find relief.

Your thirst can only be quenched as you drink deeply from God who created you and loves you!

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Assumptions Lead to Problems

Last week I was preparing for Sunday’s service at church. We wanted to include communion as part of the service. I have only been at this church for a few weeks now, and I assumed things.

I assumed that their traditions around the celebration of communion would be similar to my experience. Here are my assumptions. I assumed that I could insert communion into the service where I felt it fit best. I was planning for a two-part sermon and decided communion would work really well as a practical expression of the first part. Next, I assumed that communion would be set up with cups of juice in trays and bread on plates. I assumed that would mean we needed a table at the front for the elements to sit until we were ready to move into the ceremony of communion. Then, I assumed that we would be serving everyone. That lead to a few more assumptions. I assumed we then needed to have 4 people prepared to pass the trays down the rows to cover the two sections of chairs we had set up, so I asked four of the elders if they could help serve. Along with the serving, I then assumed that since we were serving the bread and then the juice, we could use someone to play some music while everyone was being served, so I asked my wife to be prepared to play a few songs on the piano. Since I assumed we were serving everyone, I thought my sermon would be longer because we had to give time to serve everyone which would draw things out a bit.

My assumptions were not correct. First, in talking to my wife, she mentioned that she had seen a supply of cups and wafers that were one sealed unit. So then I assumed we will only be serving them once, so that shortens up the time a bit. Then, in conversation with one of the Elders, he mentioned that they had just been handing the elements to people as they entered the sanctuary.

So we will not be serving them at all, okay. They will already have the bread and juice with them for when they were needed. And that meant that we didn’t need anyone to actually serve the congregation.

Well, someone still had to hand them out as people came in for the service. Another assumption was that the piano could be used and I was informed it desperately needed tuning and was not ready to play. I had to tell my wife that her playing was not needed.

Assumptions.

We often make assumptions, especially when we are in a new situation. I am new to this church and had not bothered to ask anyone about how they practiced communion. I could have saved myself some trouble by just asking a few appropriate questions.

So, how can we deal with assumptions in new situations?

  • Realize we don’t know what we don’t know.

When we are in a new situation, we assume that we can approach it the same way we have approached similar situations in the past. We need to realize that every new situation requires new information for us to know how to proceed in a meaningful way.

  • Watch and listen

We can learn a lot in a new situation if we slow down and carefully observe what is going on. Before jumping into action, watch what others around you are doing, even how they are doing things. Listen to the conversation. What do they talk about? What can you learn from what they are saying that will help you know how to move ahead?

  • Ask questions

I am serving as a Transition Pastor. That means I go into a church for a period of a year or so before I move on to a new assignment. Every new church I serve is a new experience for me. Yes, I have years of experience being a pastor, but I have not been a pastor for this church at this time. Even in the last church I served, I had been a pastor there years ago, but people and practices had changed. I did not know how things were done now.

So, I ask a lot of questions. I want to know what their traditions are and how they would like to see things done. I try to figure out who they are talking about when they mention a name.

I try to get a sense of the inter-personal dynamics in the relationships of the people I am working with. I want to know the history so I can get a true sense of the present.

  • Admit you are a newbie

It’s okay to remind people that you are new here, acknowledge that this is a new situation and you may mess up. As I greet people on Sundays, I admit I am new there and don’t know if they are long-term members or guests. As we talk about programs or practices, I remind people I am new and don’t know all the history. I regularly ask people to give me some background and detail on programs or practices so I can get a sense of what they are talking about.

  • Ask for a guide

Sometimes it is helpful to ask for someone to be your guide. It’s good to find who is familiar with the situation so they can help you navigate around potential missteps. If you can find someone like this, make use of their knowledge.

Assumptions can lead to problems, but you may avoid those problems by trying some of the tips above.

I would love to hear how you have handled new situations. Leave a comment about how something went really well or really bad.

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.


OUTSTANDING LEADERSHIP – by Stan Toler

There are many books on leadership, and this little book is among the best. Every short chapter is chockfull of ideas and definitions and quotes and generally good leadership advice. Stan Toler shares great advice drawing on many other good leaders. In Part 1: Leadership that Motivates, he shares how to develop and share a good vision. Part 2: Leadership that Relates lays out the value of communication and how to best communicate so that you can transform individuals and organizations. A great little book.