Better to worship in the pew than the pulpit?

One of the benefits of having to sit in the pew more often than I was used to before my illness is not only to hear more good preaching but also to be more “involved” in the worship of God.

Like many preachers I’ve often found it difficult to get fully engaged in corporate worship. Partly it’s because of the sense of responsibility for leading the service; partly it’s the burden of having to preach shortly; but it’s also partly the “distance” from the congregation.

On a platform or in a pulpit you hear the general volume of the gathered voices (if the instruments are quiet enough!), but you don’t get to hear the subtle and beautiful pathos in individual voices.

I was reminded of this recently when a deep male voice started singing near my pew. I recognized it immediately and, knowing the person as I do, I was able to understand why he was singing these words with such passion and feeling in his voice. It so enhanced my own singing of that Psalm as I joined my voice and experience to his. It felt like I was singing in stereo.

Another time it was a female voice and, again, from what I know of her life and providence, I could tell what was going through her mind as she sang words very appropriate to her situation. Again I was able to worship God more meaningfully as I listened to the joyful trembling in her voice.

Probably neither of these people have any idea how much they ministered to me and thereby heightened my own worship. Maybe, hopefully, I’ve done the same for others at times.

Though I still miss pulpit-Sundays, my pew-Sundays have given me a new understanding and appreciation of two-dimensional, or bi-directional, worship. There’s the “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” but there’s also the horizontal “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19-20).

And more of the latter results in more of the former.

A Beautiful Portrait of Paul

A Portrait of PaulI never knew there was so much truth in so few verses. Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker have mined the depths of Colossians 1:24 – 2:5 and have brought out to the light of day 10 wonderful chapters that not only paint a captivating portrait of the Apostle Paul, but of every faithful Gospel minister.

As someone who is about to begin teaching a course on The Minister and his Ministry, I’m so glad to be able to commend a book like this to my students. Most books on pastoral ministry take a thematic or topical approach and proof text their points from all over Scripture. The strength of A Portrait of Paul is its exegetical foundation; while referring to other Scriptures, it concentrates on expounding eleven verses in Colossians.

This enables us to follow the Spirit-inspired train of thought, while also enjoying a fine example of how to minister God’s Word. And contrary to what you might expect from such an approach, the authors manage to paint a beautifully rounded picture of a Gospel Minister, as you can see from the chapter headings:

1. The Joy of Paul’s Ministry
2. The Focus of Paul’s Ministry
3. The Hardships of Paul’s Ministry
4. The Origin of Paul’s Ministry
5. The Essence of Paul’s Ministry
6. The Subject of Paul’s Ministry
7. The Goal of Paul’s Ministry
8. The Strength of Paul’s Ministry
9. The Conflict of Paul’s Ministry
10. The Warnings of Paul’s Ministry

There are many “How to” books on the Ministry – and this book also has numerous practical applications – but not many build a theology of ministry on such strong biblical foundations as this one. And is that not what’s needed today? With record numbers of men leaving the ministry, having tried all the “How-to’s,” is it not time we actually stopped and went back to the Scriptures with the simple question, “What is a minister of the Gospel to be?” For only then are we in a position to ask, “What is a Gospel minister to do?” That’s what this book does so well; and it does it with lively, pacey, and contemporary language.

Another strength of the book is that it is not just for pastors and students for the ministry, but it’s for all Christians. Each chapter has a section of application to fellow-pastors, but also one addressed to fellow-Christians. Ventura and Walker see the importance not just of ministers being able to identify themselves, but of Christians being able to identify ministers. How many Churches would be spared so much trouble if – before calling a minister, criticizing a minister, dismissing a minister, or leaving a minister – people actually knew from the Word of God what a true minister of the Gospel looked like!

There’s one danger with a book like this, the danger of idolizing Paul. I’m reminded of one minister’s wife who became so exasperated by her husband’s over-frequent references to the Apostle that she exclaimed at the dinner table, “Remember dear, it was Christ who saved me, not Paul!”  Ventura and Walker skillfully avoid this potential pitfall by continually taking us back to the Christ who not only painted the portrait of Paul but who perfectly modeled Gospel ministry in this world.

Buy A Portrait of Paul at Reformation Heritage Books or Amazon.

* Jeremy Walker blogs here.

Your own personalized Google

I’m sure most of you have searched Google for a particular subject (e.g. Worship), found five million results, and given up trying to find a worthwhile post after five or six pages.

Or maybe you’ve tried to refine your search with multiple combinations of pluses, minuses, quotation marks, etc, and narrowed your search down to…one million results. Hmmm.

And then there’s that article you remember reading last year on the subject, but what website was it on? And who wrote it?

Don’t you wish you had your own personalized Google, one that was tailored just to your interests, that would spare you so much of this frustration?

Well, you can. It takes a bit of work and perseverance, but the results are worth it. Welcome to Diigo. Strange name, but excellent idea.

I started using this simple bookmarking system a couple of years ago and although it’s taken 5-10 minutes every day to keep it organized and updated, I’ve saved myself so much time and hassle in the long term.

Basically I use Diigo to bookmark, highlight, and tag every useful article I read on the Internet. You can get a little Diigo plug-in for most browsers; a Diigo icon sits on your navigation bar and when you read anything good on the Internet, you simply click to bookmark it, highlight any particularly helpful text in the article, and tag it with relevant words.

Now, when I want to search for articles on “Worship,” I go to my Diigo homepage and enter my search there. That brings up any articles I’ve tagged with “Worship,” gives a brief description of the article, and even shows me any text I highlighted when I originally read it. Soooo much quicker! And if you stick at it over time, eventually you’ve built up your own personalized Google, a search engine that is tailored to your own special interests. A few other neat features are:

1. You can follow other people. If you follow me (davidprts is my Diigo user name) you can have the posts I bookmark every day sent to you in a daily update, or simply look at my Diigo homepage to see what I’ve been up to. So, say you have to do a talk on “a Christian view of Technology” you can head on over to my Diigo search bank and find articles that I’ve bookmarked “Technology” over the last few years. You’ll have to figure out which ones I agree with and which I don’t!

2. You can start groups. I have Diigo groups for some of my PRTS classes and invite the students to join. That means that when I see a post that’s relevant to, say, my Ministry class, I bookmark it for that group and the students’ learning experience is enhanced by seeing the kind of posts I think will be helpful for that particular subject. Diigo helps me keep teaching outside class hours!

3. You can annotate pages. You can attach “post-it” notes to webpages and read notes that others have posted there too. Or you can get students interacting about an article or blog post using this feature.

4. You can make bookmarks private. Obviously there are some things I want to bookmark that I’m not that keen for everyone to know about. For example, if I’m bookmarking sites with cribs, push-chairs, and diapers, well someone might think… (for the avoidance of doubt and gossip, that was an attempt at a joke).

5. You can mark articles “Read later.” Instead of seeing a good article, deciding to come back to it later, and forgetting where you read it, you can save articles for reading later, something best done in batches.


My only complaint is that Diigo does not yet allow emailing of articles and posts. Evernote allows you to email from your iPhone or iPad with tags in the subject line and everything is filed away for you. With Diigo, if I’m reading my RSS feed on my iPad using Flipboard, I have to email good articles to Gmail, open them in my browser, then bookmark and tag. That’s a bit of a hassle (and I’m sure Diigo are working on this – please!), but it’s still worth it for the long-term benefit.

Children’s Bible Reading Plan (45)

As some of the newer readers to this blog may not be aware of the Children’s Bible Reading plan that I’ve been offering for almost a year, here’s an explanation of what I’m trying to do.

Basically, every Saturday I post a daily Bible reading plan for the week ahead. It’s what I use with my own children and it’s characterized by:

1. Brevity. I want this to be do-able. It is more important to be reading small chunks of Scripture regularly than setting the bar too high and failing. Of course I wish my children wanted to read Scripture more, but if I can get them to spend 5 minutes with the Bible, morning and evening, then I will be happy. And hopefully they will develop a growing appetite for it themselves.

2. Variety. I chose Old Testament in the morning and New Testament in the evening. I also want to vary between narrative, poetry, practical, etc. However as my two girls are only 8 and 7, the emphasis will be more on the stories of the Bible. Sometimes I’ll skip some chapters that are especially difficult for children. They can be read and studied when the children are older and better able to profit from them.

3. Simplicity. The pattern is a few verses for reading, and either a verse to write out or a question to answer in the morning and evening. I’ve added a couple of extra questions for the Saturday reading that are a bit more personal and applicatory?

4. Accountability. Although this system is to help me be more accountable for shepherding my children, I also want to make my children accountable. That’s why I ask them to write a verse and an answer a day. And its also why I ask them to bring me their work at least weekly, and try to have a brief discussion with each of them.

5. Unity. One advantage of this is that we will all be reading in the same part of the Bible (my wife and I included). Whatever else we read, we will all have read these verses as a minimum. That means we can all talk about the same passage of Scripture at meals, etc. I hope this will give our family a spiritual unity as we journey on together.

As some friends felt that twice a day readings were too much, especially for kids going out to school in the morning, I also started posting a second set of Bible study notes that have one reading per day. These will go through a book or two from the New Testament, then a book from the Old Testament, then back to the New Testament, and so on. I’ll also leave some space on these notes to write down matters for prayer.

All this has to be bathed in prayer if it is to be a spiritual blessing to the children (and to me). I don’t want it to degenerate into a legalistic exercise where the daily and weekly routine just becomes a boring drudging “ought-to.” However, God does use the reading of Scripture to make sinners wise unto salvation. My hope and prayer is that eventually my children, and all our children, will no longer read because of external pressure or habit, but because they want to, because they have a passion for the Christ that the Scriptures testify of.

Anyway, after all that, here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s this week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

And for those who want to start at the beginning, here’s six months of the morning and evening in pdf, and here’s six months of the single reading plan in pdf.

And if you want to explore this subject further, here’s a great post from Brian Croft on pastoring our children.

Subscribe For A Free Film From HeadHeartHand Media

When a student (yes, you Michael) eventually persuaded me to start blogging just under two years ago, I never expected it to become such a large and enjoyable part of my life and ministry. With such small expectations I looked for a blogging platform that would make it as easy as possible to post regularly with minimal hassle. With its email-to-blog feature, and its simple maintenance interface, Posterous was the obvious answer.

However, as the HeadHeartHand blog has developed and grown, the limitations of Posterous have become more obvious. Also, my Christian film company, HeadHeartHand Media has been growing in parallel over the past year.

I’ve therefore decided to change my blogging software to WordPress and to move it to a new shared site with HeadHeartHand Media.

The blog’s content will remain the same – a mixture of Ministry and Leadership subjects such as Preaching, Counseling, Old Testament, Technology, etc. The only changes you’ll be aware of will be improved presentation and a different location.

As many of you receive the “old” Posterous blog content via RSS or email, I want to “encourage” you to make the change to the new blog by giving a free digital download of CrossReference: The Angel of the Lord to all subscribers to the new blog.

So here’s the deal: anyone who subscribes to the new HeadHeartHand blog by RSS or email, will receive a download code embedded in their RSS feed or email from Monday to Wednesday next week. The only condition is one download per subscription.

So head over to the social media icons on the right of my photo, subscribe by RSS or email, and get your free film next week!

I look forward to serving you here and enjoying your valued contributions via the Comments.

And before I go, let me give a big thank you to Nathan Bingham and Cameron Morgan whose technical and design skills made all this possible. Thanks so much, guys; you’re a great team and a joy to work with.

Nathan W. Bingham is a part-time blogger, social media consultant, and a seminary graduate who is training for pastoral ministry. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and three daughters.

Cameron Morgan is a visual print and web designer. He’s particularly interested in the intersection of theology, technology & visual communication as a means to spread the gospel of Christ. He lives in Orange County, CA with his wife and daughter.