Issue No. 341 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting includes a futurist’s survey on your leadership needs ahead (use the survey questions at your next staff meeting!), plus a book written for leaders of faith-based organizations with—trust me—must-read chapters like “The Ministry of Pain.” (That will get your attention!) And this reminder: click here to check out my 20 management buckets (core competencies) and recent issues/book reviews here.
You wanna know what jumped off the page of the latest book I’ve read? It’s on page 97, in italics, in Serve Strong, by Terry Powell:
“That’s when God gets the chance to throw his weight around.”
Huh? So I backed up and re-read Powell’s two-page insight, “God Is Heavy” and “Weakness Is the Way.” He says the “Bible’s emphasis on God’s glory refers to his weight.” He adds, “That’s the root concept of the noun ‘glory’ and the verb ‘glorify.’ God is heavy in the figurative sense of significance or importance.”
He notes 1 Corinthians 10:31, Isaiah 43:7 and the psalmist’s cry, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1), and then adds this from John Piper, “God’s aim in creating the world was to display the value of his own glory.”
So the author suggests how a Christ-follower can best glorify God. It may be counter-intuitive to you.
He writes: “…I’m convinced that it's our weakness, not strength; our neediness, not sterling psychological health; our brokenness, not stability; our inadequacy, not unflagging confidence; and our dire circumstances, not trouble-free days, which offer the greater opportunity to enhance God's reputation among the persons we meet, know, and serve. A reassuring irony of Christian living is that he receives more glory through our fragility and in threatening situations, because that's when we most need him. That's when God gets the chance to throw his weight around.
“The deep roots of this claim grow in the fertile soil of Psalm 50:15. The Lord invites us, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.’”
What’s unique and so must-read about this book? It’s written to those of us that struggle with inadequacy, face dire circumstances, and experience trouble-filled days. Welcome to Christian ministry, says Terry Powell!
Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants delivers on the profound and practical promises of the subtitle:
• Biblical (oh, my)
• Encouragement (absolutely)
• Sustain (food for the journey)
• God’s Servants (we can identify)
I should have read this when I received a copy in 2014, on the recommendation of Ralph Enlow. The other endorsements are stunning: James I. Packer, Robertson McQuilkin, Marlene Lefever, Stuart Briscoe, Jerry Jenkins, Hanz Finzel, Jerry Rankin and many others. But…maybe in God’s timing, you need this encouragement now.
Should you read this book?
• “Not if you’re unwilling to admit that ministry is messy, and often hard.
• Not if you’re unfamiliar with pain, failure, or doubts.
• Not if you believe you’ve outgrown your vulnerability to temptation and left serious struggles with sin behind.
• It isn’t for you if you believe that the only persons who need to hear the gospel preached are unbelievers.”
• “If you’re a soldier who marches with a limp, yet your Commanding Officer orders you to stay on the battlefield, it’s for you.”
I don’t recall ever reading such a powerful, transparent book on the perils and pain of ministry work—with such a bedrock foundation of biblical insights and encouragement. Pick any chapter—like “The Power of Owning Up” or “Netless Followers”—and you’ll shudder at the puniness of your faith.
Powell has taught Bible, church education and leadership courses at Columbia International University, with frequent overseas forays into hostile territory. I love Packer’s endorsement, “His book is a potent antibiotic for the Christian worker’s struggling soul.”
The book has three major themes: When You Wonder If It’s Worth It, When You Feel Inadequate, and When You Don’t See Results. “Don’t lose heart,” says Powell, and he references the Apostle’s Paul “sandwich” of insights between two declarations of steadfastness (verses 1 and 16) in 2 Corinthians 4. If you lead a church or nonprofit ministry, this is a perfect toolbox for coaching, mentoring, staff meetings, and your own journey of spiritual disciplines. Each chapter ends with poignant “Dig Deeper” next steps.
Powell illustrates key points with vivid biographical sketches of great heroes of the faith (John G. Paton, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, and others)—so this warning—buy this book and you’ll wanna buy more books!
His writing flows—no gimmicks—and I especially enjoyed the memorable meaning and imagery of Chapter 5: “A Pebble in the Pond,” with frequent plunks, a splash, and one plop.
Chapter 9, “Captain of the Are Nots,” took my breath away. I wrote a big “WOW!” in the margin of page 91. He notes that D.L. Moody, at age 17, was rejected for church membership in Boston and tagged as unable “to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness.” Powell tagged him, “he was the preeminent are not.” (See 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.)
If you’re still wondering if this book is for you, Powell serves up a thoughtful and compelling chapter on spiritual attacks, including his own traumas. He adds, “My New Testament professor, Merrill C. Tenney, once told his class, ‘The devil never opposes insignificant work.’”
To order from Amazon, click on the title below for Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants, by Terry Powell.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Terry Powell asks, “As a Bible study leader, preacher, or mentor, has a comforting truth ever drenched your heart to such an extent that, while communicating it to others, tears streaked down your cheeks? (If no, read Chapter 16, “The Tracks of Your Tears.”) Discuss!
2) Referencing V. Raymond Edman’s book, The Disciplines of Life, Powell postulates that “On average, authors of previous generations offered more wisdom and less fluff than today’s writers.” Do you agree?
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If you're a long-time reader, you know I'm a big fan of "asking the customers what they value" (one of Peter Drucker's five critical questions)--see The Customer Bucket, Chapter 2, in Mastering the Management Buckets.
A search firm, The Slingshot Group, has been wrestling with what I think is a critical and related question—given the world we live in and the course it’s on—what kinds of leaders will nonprofit organizations need in the next several years, and what will be required of them?
It’s an important question that I’d like to invite you, on their behalf, to answer. When you’re connected to the Internet, just click on this link or paste this link into your browser:
Note: I’m betting that you, and your team, have never been asked some of these questions!
This confidential survey will take you 12 minutes or so to complete and your input, combined with others, will give all of us a sense of how to think and plan for the future leadership needs of the organizations we care about.
To say thanks for your help, once the data has been compiled I will include a link in a future issue of Your Weekly Staff Meeting—with an advance look at the results before they are published broadly.
For more resources and free downloads, click on the webpages for the Results Bucket and the Customer Bucket.
P.S. For more resources for your church or nonprofit ministry, visit the blog I write for ECFA on board governance, and my recent post, "Just Do 1 Thing a Month!"
Your Weekly Staff Meeting is emailed free two to four times a month to subscribers, the frequency of which is based on an algorithm of book length, frequent flyer miles, and client deadlines. We do not accept any form of compensation from authors or publishers for book reviews. As a board member and raving fan of Christian Community Credit Union (a non-profit), we proudly list the credit union as a sponsor at no charge.