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6 Reasons Pastors Need Learning Communities

Most pastors understand the importance of learning continually. There’s just so much you have to know to be an effective pastor, and the rapid pace of change in the modern world has only made that more difficult. So the pastors I’ve known all push themselves to keep learning and growing. Excellent.

The problem is with their approach.

Focused student reading book

With just a few exceptions, most of the pastors I know take a self-directed, independent approach to their continuing education. They stay sharp by reading books, listening to sermons, and preparing to teach others. They’re constantly learning, but mostly on their own.

And there’s nothing inherently wrong with independent learning. Most of the greatest minds in history did the bulk of their learning on their own. I do the same.

Interestingly though, few pastors would advise the average Christian to do the bulk of their studying/learning alone. That’s why we encourage people to join small groups, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, and more. But as pastors, we seem to think that we’re above all that, skilled enough to do it on our own. Sure we’ll throw in the occasional pastors conference, but that’s about it.

And although there’s tremendous value to independent learning, there are some inherent dangers as well. Dangers which suggest that we should supplement our independent learning with some good, old-fashioned group learning. In other words, pastors need learning communities too.

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Maternity Leave Policies Around the World

Mom’s apple pie may be one of the things America cherishes the most, but mom herself? Not so much.

maternity leave

 

via The Atlantic

Flotsam and jetsam (6/23)

adults on board

Good Reads

  • The Dead White Poet You Need in Your Life:  Why all this interest in Herbert, and why now? I believe it’s because Herbert writes with unblinking candor about both the joy of faith and the ongoing pain of our remaining weakness. We need his words today, to remind us that the Christian life is one that invites hope, but makes room for struggle as well. (Christianity Today)
  • The Last Crusade: The First World War and the Birth of Modern Islam:  How to live without a Caliph? Later Muslim movements sought various ways of living in such a puzzling and barren world, and the solutions they found were very diverse: neo-orthodoxy and neo-fundamentalism, liberal modernization and nationalism, charismatic leadership and millenarianism. All modern Islamist movements stem from these debates. (Religion & Ethics)

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Saturday Morning Fun…Do You Want to Kill Some Rebels?

You probably don’t need another spoof of Frozen‘s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” but this one is worth it. And a little Star Wars humor on a Saturday morning is always a good idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eJeCM60awo

Flotsam and jetsam (6/20)

could be worse

Good Reads

  • Pornolescence:  So many young Christians have stunted their spiritual growth through what I call pornolesence. Pornolescence is that period when a person is old enough and mature enough to know that pornography is wrong and that it exacts a heavy price, but too immature or too apathetic to do anything about it. (Tim Challies)
  • The Banality of Clergy Failure:  This is the banality of clergy failure—that we put ourselves between people and God. That we tacitly assume God is distant, remote, occupied, distracted, and so we, to compensate, must be present, intense, hearty, and inspiring. We must be more human than God. (Christian Century)
  • In Two Michigan Villages, a Higher Calling Is Often Heard:  In an era when the number of priests in the United States continues to dwindle — declining by 11 percent in the past decade and crippling the Catholic Church’s ability to meet the needs of a growing Catholic population — this rural patch of Clinton County offers a case study in the science and mystery of the call to priesthood. (New York Times)
  • The Great Calvinist Reawakening:  But the new Calvinist revival—which amounts to a partial shift in theological emphasis and style—is a far cry from the Calvinist revival that burned through the Northeast a few centuries ago during the Great Awakening….They wept, they trembled, they flushed, they fell senseless to the ground. They sang at the top of their lungs and threw their worldliest possessions on bonfires. They writhed with the shame of sin, and shook with the power of salvation, and fainted with the sweetness of the grace and glory of God. (Religion & Politics)

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Looking for Good Doctoral Students

Are you thinking about doing a PhD in theology or Bible? Then I’m not going to lie to you: it’s a tough road. You’ll invest tremendous time, effort, and money in the journey, and given the tough Bible/theology job market, you can’t know if there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. (And actually, given what academics spend most of their time doing, there’s not much gold in that pot anyway!) So you need to think about reality before launching down that road.

academia

But if you’re still interested in pursuing a PhD in theology or Bible anyway, then we should talk. My first doctoral student starts this Fall, and I’m pretty excited about the research he wants to do on the relationship between Christology and theological anthropology (esp. the incarnation and the mind/body relationship). I don’t know if that sounds interesting to anyone else, but I’ll enjoy it! And the good news for you is that he’ll be the poor sap that I get to practice/learn on. So by the time you arrive, I should have some idea of what I’m doing. (No promises.)

I won’t tell you how to pick your doctoral program: there are too many personal preferences involved (e.g. faculty, curriculum, placement rates, etc.). But about a year ago, I moved to Wheaton College largely because it has a doctoral program with some really attractive features. So if you’re looking to do a PhD in theology or Bible, then you might want to consider ours.

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Flotsam and jetsam (6/18)

wishes

Good Reads

  • Generation X: America’s neglected ‘middle child’:  This overlooked generation currently ranges in age from 34 to 49, which may be one reason they’re so often missing from stories about demographic, social and political change. They’re smack in the middle innings of life, which tend to be short on drama and scant of theme. But there are other explanations that have nothing to do with their stage of the life cycle. (Pew Research)
  • Intelligent Design: Slowly Going Out of Style?  There’s room for ambiguity in faith these days, it seems. Science doesn’t have to negate God; one man’s Bible interpretation doesn’t invalidate another’s. As evolution gains more and more traction, it won’t be a “loss” for religion; it will be just be one more change in how modern Americans are learning to believe. (The Atlantic)

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Some Advice on Reading Wisely from Maximus the Confessor

book stacks (300x373)“But if someone reads this or any other book whatever not for the sake of spiritual profit but to hunt for phrases to reproach the author so that he might then set himself up in his own opinion as wiser than he, such a person will never receive any profit of any kind.”

Maximus the Confessor, The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, prologue

A Coffee Expert Reviews Cheap Coffee

If you tend to drink coffee on the cheaper side of the cost spectrum, you’ll appreciate this expert reviewer testing several popular brands of cheap coffee. If nothing else, you’ll get to hear him describe the various coffees in oddly precise ways. The coffees taste variously like “soggy wheat cereal” (7-Eleven), “dirty asphalt (McDonalds, which he actually rated rather high), “burnt rubber” (Maxwell House), and “wet cardboard” (Starbucks). Makes you wonder if an expert taster just goes around the world tasting all kinds of random garbage just to know what it tastes like.

In the end, he did find a few that he liked, but definitely not Starbucks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu-S_USMQ0U#t=117

Flotsam and jetsam (6/16)

first world problems

Good Reads

  • Why Your Teaching Isn’t As Effective As You Think: Progressive bloggers ranting against conservatives is not teaching. Preachers ranting against the sins “out there,” while ignoring the actual sins in their church—that is not teaching. All these leaders are really doing is tickling their listeners’ ears and fortifying their already held beliefs. (Sharon Hodde-Miller)
  • Meet the Atheist…Who Believes in God:  Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account. Take me, I am an atheist who believes in God. Let me explain. (Frank Shaeffer)
  • Shun the Atheist Boyfriend: A poll reveals that parents of all political persuasions are very squeamish about the prospect of a godless daughter- or son-in-law. (The Atlantic)

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