Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

29 Sep

Book Review-Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Posted in Uncategorized on 29.09.11 by Merlyn

Book Review

Published on Book Sneeze & Amazon

Book Review

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

This book by Andy Stanley seeks to describe grace in a contemporary, easy to understand way using various Biblical stories and characters as illustrations or markers of grace. The author points out that grace is a struggle for the one who gives as well as the one who receives. Andy uses story to point out the key aspects of grace. The book highlights key understandings about grace for the reader throughout each chapter. The book is motivational, devotional, practical, theological and Biblical in nature.

I am a fan of Andy Stanley, even when we might see an issue or a concept differently. I was a little pessimistic about the idea of a book on grace since it is such a meaty theological concept and while Andy is a great thinker, much of his work is devotional in nature. This book was more than a devotional on grace, but it fell short of being a solid or complete theological treatment as well. The book took a balanced approach to grace and unlike many contemporary Christian pastors and thinkers, Andy made sure to include the notion that grace comes from God and not from our human response to God, which was important to my own theological viewpoint. The themes of each chapter made it easy to see grace as a source, but also for its function without taking a consumer approach to grace. The book was honest, thoughtful and sincere, without mincing words or watering down grace while at the same time not casting judgment or demonizing individuals, cultures, or particular religious perspectives. I enjoyed reading this book as Andy Stanley put some important and difficult concepts in an easy to understand language. While it is not a complete treatment of grace, it is a wonderful tool for all those who seek to better embrace and understand grace.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Rev. Marcus J Carlson


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08 Sep


Posted in Uncategorized on 08.09.11 by Merlyn

One of the comments I make most often in relation to ministry (and parenting) is that ‘we must remember that ministry is a seed planting mission.’ This is especially important in our results driven culture. Results do matter in ministry and results can be viewed and measured in a variety of ways. The problem with focusing on results in ministry is that we lose sight of our purpose in many instances. There is a theological challenge with our results focus in ministry as well. Focusing on what results we can produce assumes that what happens in ministry, in our lives and the lives of others spiritually is because of something we have done. The reality is that ministry is always about who God is, and what has done, is doing and will continue to do. Its not at all about us. That is why the parable of the sower is so helpful in thinking about ministry. Our job is to carefully scatter the seeds and to tend to them to the best of our ability, protecting them giving them good soil, sun and moisture. Our ministries, programs, events, experiences and relationships are tools to this end. While I am not a farmer, I recognize that I could cultivate the best circumstances for a seed I plant and it still may not grow. I may not see results, or better yet, I may not see results for a long time. We once planted garlic and our dog dug it up so we gave up. A who season later when we were clearing the area that was our garden, we found garlic. We had no idea. Ministry is a seed planting mission. We do the best work that we can, but in the end, it is always up to what God is doing. It is helpful to remember this for a variety of reasons–so we measure right, so we focus on cultivating the best circumstances for growth and so that we remember that it is not about what we do, but what God has already done.

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01 Sep


Posted in Uncategorized on 01.09.11 by Merlyn

Boundaries are one of the most complicated aspects of ministry life by far. It does not help that they are an ever moving and changing target, nor does it help that everyone has a different idea of what your boundaries should look like (congregation, supervisor, spouse, family, youth, parents, community, ethical considerations, legal considerations etc). There are several different types or aspects of boundaries of course, including boundaries of what one should say or do (appropriateness), boundaries with youth, parents and congregation members in terms of relationships and child protection, there are boundaries related to safety and various other things. In this instance, I am talking about boundaries related to time and schedule. For many youth workers, these tend to be the most difficult boundaries to think through and apply. Whether one is a young single youth worker who is tempted to work all of the time and spend every hour hanging out with youth or a married veteran youth worker who spends too much time traveling with the various retreats, mission trips and other ministry opportunities they have built over the years. It is hard to guard and honor ones schedule. Whether it is the idea that you must work a tremendous number of hours, or even the sense of obligation to move the ministry forward, the motives for lack of personal boundaries around time are often times pure and holy, but not necessarily healthy or Biblical. Certainly, one cannot be a good youth worker if one is a terrible husband and/or father. One cannot give what one does not have, so making sure that you have time with the God of the universe is critical. Ministry must flow out of who God is, not out of what we can do. Congregation members will expect you to be around when it works for them. Youth will expect you to be available 24/7. Parents will want your schedule to mesh with their. It is important to consider what is realistic and what is healthy and to stick with it. Even in the varying schedule of youth ministry, one can find a way to develop a routine and regular schedule that when honored (and when accounting for those special events) can not only allow for great boundaries and personal health, but a Godly example in our overly stressed, overly busy, overly committed world.’

What are some of your boundaries and how do you maintain them?

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