A Review of Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden

If a person decides they want to work harder at discipleship, there is no shortage of resources for them to turn to. Discipleship was part of the great commission given to us by Jesus, and over the centuries Christians have wrote untold volumes about how to go about the process. 

In the current market, most of these books are no better or worse than the others.  What's most important is that whatever plan a person picks, they stick with it. That being said, there are books and plans that over time make themselves stand out and rise to the top of the genre.  Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden is one of those books.   In a newly revised and expanded version from InterVarsity Press, Ogden presents a clear and simple plan for discipleship. 

I had not heard of the book before it came across my desk, courtesy of IVP.  But as I read the book and looked over the plan, I was encouraged by the way Ogden writes.  There are many many books that tell us that we need to be making disciples. …

Buechner on Preaching

Frederick Buechner was an author, pastor, and writer who knew how to get right to the heart of the matter.  In the third part of his autobiography, he writes about teaching a preaching class at Harvard Divinity school.  Many of his students were professed atheists, and he reflects on how class changed his view of preaching.  
I HAD NEVER understood so clearly before what preaching is to me. Basically, it is to proclaim a Mystery before which, before whom, even our most exalted ideas turn to straw. It is also to proclaim this Mystery with a passion that ideas alone have little to do with. It is to try to put the Gospel into words not the way you would compose an essay but the way you would write a poem or a love letter—putting your heart into it, your own excitement, most of all your own life. It is to speak words that you hope may, by grace, be bearers not simply of new understanding but of new life both for the ones you are speaking to and also for you. Out of that life, who knows w…

Why you need to be around people who let you down

I wasn’t ready the first time it happened.I was a (very) young youth pastor, ready to take on the world.I had been teaching, preaching, and pastoring since I was 18.Now I was newly married and ready to become a full fledged church staff person. Or at least a part time youth pastor.My wife and I moved to a (very) small town of under 600 to lead these youth, and I was ready to start a revival. Before we left for summer camp, the music minister ( and local banker) told me that he needed to “put a bug in my ear about something.”That something turned out to be about the way my wife and I were doing things.There were some people that didn’t like they way we did things and they thought we should know better. So they talked to each other about it, and then finally someone talked to the music minister so that he would to talk to me. I was completely caught off guard. My wife and I were severely hurt by the way these people gossiped and made accusation against us.
I wish I could say that was the…

Your Garden Keeps Growing

Good neighbors are hard to come by, but I was lucky to have one in Jerry.He lived next door to the parsonage when we moved in, and was quick to come over and introduce himself and his wife.He loved to play golf, take care of his yard, and work in his garden. Gardening was one of his big passions. He had a large spot cleared where he grew all the staples of a retiree’s garden, things like tomatoes, squash, okra, green beans, and more.And he was always glad to share them with others.Too many times to count he showed up at a door with a bag full of fresh picked items.He shared at church, with all the neighbors, even with the nursing home. He put in the work, and let others enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of his labor.
We had been neighbors for a few years when his wife got ill and passed away.Jerry still did those things he loved to do, but when I talked to him it didn’t seem like his heart was in it as much.Over time his health began to fail too. His yard wasn’t as neat as it used to b…

The Death of a Funeral Director

News travels fast in a small town.It went out over the police scanner that an ambulance had been sent to the local funeral home.That’s not normally a place that EMT’s work to save a life, but that day they were.The funeral director had suffered a heart attack in his chair on a Sunday afternoon, and his life was in danger.He is a church member as well as a good friend, and I got the call while I was in my office.I rushed down to the hospital to be there and get an update, but upon sight of the family it was evident I didn’t need an update.Roger didn’t make it.
I hugged his wife and grieved with his employees, who were there to collect his body.I had the privilege to help them load the funeral director into a car with name on the side.The gravity of the moment was overwhelming.Roger had grown up the son of a funeral director and had spent almost all of his life around death.He himself had stood in countless hospitals and homes around grieving families, not just to provide a service but t…

Resources Every Rural Pastor Needs

I had a conversation with a pastor from out of state at a conference. He told me he was from a small town in the Southwest. “How small?” I asked, as I am always curious about small towns.“Oh very small” he assured me.“Only 15 thousand people or so.”
Depending on your background, you might think that is a small town too.Or maybe you know some places to take that brother to show him what a small town really is.That’s more people than live in the whole county where I pastor.And my town of 3500 is the big city compared the towns of 1,000, 600, or 300 around us.Pastoring in rural communities has it own set of challenges and difficulties as well as it’s set of pleasures and privileges.Pastoring is a challenge no matter the size of the community, but having the right set of tools can make the job a little easier.
It’s possible to drive a nail with a rock, but it sure is easier with a hammer.It’s possible to pastor a rural church without these tools, but your life will be much easier if you kee…

The Pastor's Crown

In 1402 the daughter of King Henry the IV of England, Princess Blanche, was set to marry Louis III of Germany.Every Princess needs a crown, of course, and Blanche brought with her a crown known as the crown of Princess Blanche.It is thought to be the oldest surviving crown of England and is a highpoint of Gothic metalwork and jewelry.
Most of us today don’t have any experience with crowns.Whatever our occupation is, we don’t have any need of crown jewels.A crown is for someone important, someone royal or regal.And the placing of a crown on someone’s head signifies that they are the highest authority in the land.
Today if you travel to Munich you can see the Crown of Princess Blanche. She and others who wore the crown have long since died, but the crown remains.People go to look at the crown and are amazed by its beauty. In a coronation the crown is the not the object of attention, the person who receives it is. The crown was a symbol of authority or achievement.
Crowns are reserved for …

Why Everyone Needs Three Quarts of Manna

In the 1960’s a 3M engineer was trying to create a super strong adhesive.  Instead, he created the opposite, a lightweight tacky adhesive that left no residue.  No one knew what to do with the glue like it was, so nothing happened with it.  It took more than a decade for another engineer to use the glue to hold down his bookmark in his hymnal.  He thought it might be good to use on paper and for bookmarks, and then the Post-It note was born. 

This all happened before I was born, but it had a monumental impact on my life.  My desk is covered with sticky notes.  Things that occur to me while I’m doing something else, phone numbers of people, things I need to remember to do.  I’m what I like to call “absent minded” though my wife just calls me forgetful. Regardless, we all need ways of remembering thing sometime. I probably am more forgetful than others, but we all forget.  We all have a way of only thinking about what is in front of us, giving in to what someone called the “tyranny of th…