Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Missional community coaching in Pennsylvania's Coal Region

In an effort to combine the power of coaching with a missional/incarnational approach to ministry, a fellow pastor and I have volunteered to provide free coaching services for a local non-profit group in our city. We are only in the second week of this pilot program but we are already sensing that this is something God is blessing. I believe this is fairly new ground and am optimistic that it will open doors to bring transformation in our community.

Most of the clients are in transition and dealing with poverty and unemployment issues; the goal is to bring them from dependence to independence in their lives. Some are from a group working to help young people get their GED, others are from a cash assistance program that provides some training, and others are from an employment placement program. The other pastor and I will each be working with four clients each for four months and then gathering a new group.

We developed a flier offering Free Life Coaching to those involved in the program. The response was immediate, with over a dozen candidates filling out the packets to apply for eight slots. Interestingly, several staff members at this organization were interested in the coaching and said they would be willing to pay for it.

The prospect of providing coaching for those in transition is very exciting. Although we have been asked not to “proselytize,” we are permitted to answer questions and spiritual issues are on the table. The opportunities to share Jesus have already been well received and there is every reason to believe that will continue.

visit www.shepherdsbalm.com to get Rich Earl's new book Shepherds Balm

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Arbiter of Loyalty

Short video clip on Loyalty with Rich Earl featured in a sermon series at a local church.

Shepherds Balm

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What would Jesus buy?

"Americans in general have little tolerance for a centering way of life that is submissive to the conditions in which growth takes place: quiet, obscure, patient, not subject to human control and management. The church is uneasy in these conditions.Typically it adapts itself to the prevailing American culture and is soon indistinguishable from that culture: talkative, noisy, busy, controlling, image-conscious-" Peterson

Alan Hirsch posted this quote and it sparked some thought that I would like to share here.

I was laying in bed this morning and turned on the TV- a rarity for me as I don't like to start my day that way. As I shifted through the channels I was amazed that almost every channel had an infomercial on (Saturday). The products were things we could (and should) all live without and would all be much better off for not having. I was incredulous as during a Magic Bullet commercial, a man in the audience (an obvious plant) was convinced of the value of the juice extracting power of the Magic Bullet and endorsed the product enthusiastically after playing the skeptic. It was powerfully bad acting, but it must be working because Magic Bullet was paying oodles for the air time. Either they think we are all idiots, or we are all idiots...consumers we are all.And Christians in America don't seem to be much better at deflecting this lure of the culture.

Christmas is here. Good grief, not again. As a follower of Jesus I have come to think it may be the single most distracting and destructive event of the year for the advancement of His kingdom. Christians go wild, in lockstep with the culture, mindlessly seeking material goodies, with nary a thought for the King whose birth we allegedly celebrate. What's with us?

Every year for the past 12 on Thanksgiving we make the annual trek back to visit family on our native Long Island, a consumeristic Mecca. We journey back home on Black Friday, and we witness cars piled high with "great deals', and traffic snarled in the frenzy to acquire. My desire to join in the Black Friday madness currently registers at zero, and has been holding steady for as long as I can remember. There ought to be a deep aversion in us to following the masses into the retail maelstrom. Not because it is wrong to buy or to give, but because it is an obscene perversion of who Jesus is. We should recoil in horror. It is a black day indeed.

The question we should ask ourselves is What would Jesus buy? Really, what would the gentle, humble, powerful King of love do on Black Friday? Would He be camped out? Would his heart pound in his chest as the guards open the sacred doors at WalMart? If the person in front of Him fell to the ground during the stampede would He risk His life to lift them to their feet? It might take a minor miracle....

We don't have to settle for craziness this year if we are willing to bear the scorn of a culture that is mesmerized by the spirit of accumulation. Swim the other way like a brave salmon to the spawning grounds. Celebrate the birth of Jesus with a spiritual calm, and do the things Jesus would approve. Rest, love, share, listen, pray, give.

Resources for a better Christmas:

Worship Fully Spend Less Give More Love All

The Divine Commodity

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are you loyal?

I was asked to give my views on loyalty recently and thought I would share the response.

For me the big question is not whether I am loyal or not. The question is where does my loyalty stop? When can I say with good conscience that I can no longer support you? There is a dividing line somewhere that determines whether I totally support you through a crisis or will be forced to take a different position. Truth must be the arbiter.

My experience has been that we sometimes support our friends not on the basis of truth, but merely because they are friends. We feel caught in the middle and this can be paralyzing. The core value of friendship must not trump the core value of truth- a higher value.

Confronting a friend with truth is hazardous. Few people enjoy confrontation. We generally prefer to side with our friend and avoid risking the friendship. The problem is that when we do this truth can become a castoff. Telling my friend he is wrong, especially when he is already in conflict, will rarely produce a humble response. Instead, he will grow defensive, and a bond between us has been broken.

Jonathan is a great example of loyalty. He seems to have found the fulcrum in this debate. He was torn between supporting his own father King Saul, who had lost a bit of his mind in jealousy, and his best friend David. He managed to ably support and help his friend, while remaining true to the Biblical command to honor his father, no easy trick. His soul was joined to David, but he died on the battlefield with his father.

see I Samuel 13-20

Loyalty is not really loyalty until it is tested by crisis. Will we be blindly loyal to our friends, or risk living more prophetically and remain loyal to the truth?


Friday, October 22, 2010

Everything is crooked

The following is taken from Shepherds Balm, a new devotional tool for pastors by Rich Earl. Visit shepherdsbalm.com for more info.

I searched one day but could not find any straight lines on earth. Among the animals, the trees, the flowers, the multitudes of fish, and birds, even people, I searched in vain for anything that was purely aligned.

I found plenty of things that were pretty straight. Mighty redwoods, the edge of a bird’s wing, mountain ridges, even flower stems and blades of grass. But none of them were completely straight. None of them qualified in my eyes.

I wondered and then realized that this is as it should be. God alone is completely straight. His creation, especially considering the Fall, is filled with anomalies and imperfections. We have knots in trees, bumpy noses, jagged seashores. Our ways are crooked, His way is straight. But there was more.

Sitting on the rocks of a jetty on my native Long Island’s south shore one day I discovered not one, but two straight lines in the seascape before me. They remain the only two straight lines I have ever noticed in the natural realm, though neither is actually located on terra firma itself.

First I saw that the spot where the water met the sky was perfectly straight. The horizon, the unreachable, fabled place always in the distance, always just out of reach, was perfectly straight. I think God and His preferred future for us are there.

Then just a few moments later, as I was still taking in this truth of the horizon, I saw another straight line. In fact, I saw lots of them. Through the clouds, dozens of sunbeams came cascading down from heaven in perfectly straight lines that were miles long. There was no effort, they were just there. Our heavenly Father remains the only source of straightness in a crooked world. The beams did not start at the earth’s crust and fly upward, but came downward to us from Him.

In ministry, we sometimes think it is our job to straighten out what is crooked. Clearly this is an impossible task, and I don’t think God ever called us to that. How many a minister has collapsed in exhaustion trying to weed out every trace of sin and corruption in the flock or in society?

Moses himself ministered to a mixed group of people. There were many sincere followers of God in the group to be sure, but there were also some real laggards. Imagine if Moses had spent his time trying to straighten them all out!

Our task is no different. For the sake of our sanity a balance must be struck between the discipline we bring as God’s undershepherds and allowing the Lord to bring His own discipline. They are His sheep, not ours.

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat?” Numbers 11:4

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Obedience to the Vision

The following is entry #38 from Shepherds Balm, a 52 week devotional tool for pastors and Christian leaders by Rich Earl and available at Amazon or at ShepherdsBalm.com

From that time many of His disciples went back, and
walked no more with Him. John 6:66

When God gives a vision by His Spirit through His word of what He wants, and your mind and soul thrill to it, if you do not walk in the light of that vision, you will sink into servitude to a point of view which Our Lord never had.

Disobedience in mind to the heavenly vision will make you a slave to points of view that are alien to Jesus Christ. Do not look at someone else and say— “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why cannot I?” You have to walk in the light of the vision that has been given to you and not compare yourself with others or judge them, that is between them and God.

When you find that a point of view in which you have been delighting clashes with the heavenly
vision and you debate, certain things will begin to develop in you—a sense of property and a sense of personal right, things of which Jesus Christ made nothing. He was always against these things as being the root of everything alien to Himself. “A man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things that he possesses.” If we do not recognize this, it is because we are ignoring the undercurrent of Our Lord's teaching.

We are apt to lie back and bask in the memory of the wonderful experience we have had. If there is one standard in the New Testament revealed by the light of God and you do not come up to it, and do not feel inclined to come up to it, that is the beginning of backsliding, because it means your conscience does not answer to the truth. You can never be the same after the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you for going on as a more true disciple of Jesus Christ, or for going back as a deserter.

— Oswald Chambers, Called of God

Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Acts 26:19 (NKJV)

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Noise of a Fly

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm, a devotional for Christian leaders by Rich Earl now available at shepherdsbalm.com

"I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.” John Donne

How often have we knelt to pray and before our
hearts have even entered into God’s presence we
become absorbed in some trivial earthly matter. The
phone rings, our stomach growls, we remember
something we ought to have done. As single-hearted
servants we ought to stay focused on the One to
whom we are speaking and listening, but we do not
always. In the end our faithfulness will not be
measured merely by counting up the list of tasks
performed. A measure of our faithfulness will be in
our attention to the Master Himself, in the keenness
of our listening for His Words.

Some are effective and contented contemplatives,
not I. It requires rigor and intentionality for me to
stay put and listen, and to willingly open my
stubborn heart before my Master. Wanting to be
aware and sensitive to the needs around me, I often
forget that without His detailed instructions, I'll be of
little help to those I seek to nurture. How many
more years until I learn that the earth can wait a few
moments for me to solve all its ills?

As a boy sitting in school I longed for recess
times. I would sprint out of the school doors with my
friends and run and wrestle and chase until my heart
pounded. Now I am the same in some core way. “Sit
still”, I say to myself, like that lively schoolboy
waiting for recess. Maybe I have yet to learn the pure
joy of making Him my recess- the place of heart pounding
joy. Come unto me and I will give you recess?
— Richard Earl

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is
stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
— Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The snare of a step in the right direction

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm, a devotional for Christian leaders by Rich Earl now available at shepherdsbalm.com

I have found my time of greatest peril and temptation
is not in the hour of deepest distress, but in the hour just after a great spiritual victory. It is then that our guard must be up, and we must position ourselves to fight, for the enemy knows we may be unprepared. We must be careful as pastors not to excuse ourselves from the conviction of the Holy Spirit and working of repentance. We are just as prone to “go easy on ourselves” as anyone else. This word from JB Stoney should serve as a warning and reminder to us all.

"When the conscience is in exercise, there is great
need that it should not be checked or quieted by
partial action, or by imperfect intelligence. The
conscience of a saint is awakened by the spirit of God
to seek relief from the presence of evil around. This
is a true, healthy purpose, and most blessed if
effectively carried out according to the word of God.
The danger and consequent loss is when compromise
is entered into, when the conscience is quieted by
one step, rather than by a definite and clear escape
from a place of grievance. And thus, alas! The flesh is
spared and the spirit of God grieved, and there is
really no progress.

This often occurs in our Christian history; the
conscience has been aroused, but to meet it fully as
in the light of God’s presence would cost our nature
too much. Of course we do not reason in this plain
way with ourselves; but do we not often, perhaps
years afterwards, discover that it was really sparing
ourselves which led to our resisting the demands and
strivings of our conscience? For now, being in the
place of blessing which our conscience had long
before indicated, we see how we had deceived
ourselves, and thus had hindered our own blessing;
and all because we feared the personal trial to which
we should have been exposed in reaching it.
It is well to be warned of this device or weakness,
from which all suffer many times and in many ways –
one which I may call an effort to appease the
conscience without putting the flesh to much
sacrifice – because if we see how we have been
deceived in this subtle way, we are the more careful
to attend to our conscience, and how God is speaking
to it, and how we may quiet it at the smallest cost to
ourselves. In short, as a rule, when the conscience is
arrested or exercised, the first thought is, not what
will at all costs satisfy it according to God, but on the
contrary, how I can answer its demand without
involving myself in loss and pain.

Finally, if I make my own ease of mind or
judgment the measure of my action, instead of the
revealed will of God and the leading of the Holy
Spirit, the consequence will be that it will be more
difficult for me to be led on than for those who have
not moved at all. For at the bottom the hindrance to
me is the desire to spare myself the sacrifice; and
according as I spare myself I deprive myself, in a
hundredfold proportion, of the blessing contingent
on faithfulness; and hence they who rest satisfied
with the right step never advance in truth or
knowledge beyond a certain point."

— JB Stoney, The Refiner’s Fire Journal

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,
— 1 Timothy 6:11 (NKJV)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Among Stupid Souls

The following is entry #5 from Shepherds Balm, a new devotional for pastors by Rich Earl. Purchase copies or find out more at shepherdsbalm.com

What are we to do when we come across
stupid souls? Ignorant souls we can deal
with, they need knowledge; the stupid soul does not
need knowledge; the stupid soul needs to have the
word of God until he is worried by it. The difficulty
is how the worker is to get the word of God into its
right place. Jesus Christ says the stupid soul is the
one that “hears the word but does not understand it.”
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and
does not understand it, then the wicked one comes
and snatches away what was sown in his heart…”
(Matthew 13:19).

Does God hold a man culpable for being stupid
spiritually? He certainly does. Every case of stupidity
recorded in the Bible is punished by God. How can I
get the word of God into a stupid soul?
Read 1 Samuel 15, and see how Samuel dealt
with Saul. It’s the commandment of God, “why did
you not obey that?” Take the apostle Paul, the very
same thing: “Oh foolish Galatians who hath
bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?”
And our Lord’s own words: “Oh foolish man, and
slow of heart to believe after all that the prophets
have spoken!”

This is the time, Christian worker when you must
use the word until you get it wedged in somehow in
that stupid soul, until it rankles and worries its way
to the soul’s salvation or destruction, and there was
never a class that will drive a worker closer to God
than the stupid soul, they will tax every bit of
patience and endurance you have. They always
pretend to want to do something – “ever learning,
and never able to come to the knowledge of the
truth” – why? They would not obey the word they
heard, that is the beginning.

You remember Samuel asked Saul if he had
fulfilled the word of God with regard to the
Amalekites, and Saul said he had: “Blessed be thou
the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the
Lord.” And Samuel said, “What meaneth then this
bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of
the oxen which I hear?” It’s pretending that is the
first characteristic of the stupid soul.

When God gives you a word for a soul who is
stupid, keep at it. This is the time when you have to
keep using the verse God gives you for a soul: every
time you meet him, every time you write to him,
every time you talk to him. The only way you will
stir up that one out of his stupidity is by driving
home the word of God, and presently you will see
that stupid soul saved from perdition, if it has not
gone as far away from God as Saul, and as far away as
many a stupid soul will go for lack of faithful

When the Word of God has begun its piercing
even to the dividing of soul and spirit, it will have its
wonder-working way and heal and re-create and
dissipate the stupidity.
— Oswald Chambers, Workmen of God, pp. 71-79

Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” — Matthew 17:17 (NKJV)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Losing the mystery

This is entry #29 from Shepherds Balm, a new devotional for pastors written by Rich Earl. Read more and order copies at shepherdsbalm.com

The ministry is one of the most perilous of
professions. The devil hates the Spirit-filled
minister with an intensity second only to that which
he feels for Christ Himself. The source of this hatred
is not difficult to discover. An effective, Christlike
minister is a constant embarrassment to the devil, a
threat to his dominion, a rebuttal of his best
arguments and a dogged reminder of his coming
overthrow. No wonder he hates him.

Satan knows that the downfall of a prophet of
God is a strategic victory for him, so he rests not day
or night devising hidden snares and deadfalls for the
ministry. Perhaps a better figure would be the poison
dart that only paralyzes its victim, for I think that
Satan has little interest in killing the preacher
outright. An ineffective, half-alive minister is a better
advertisement for hell than a good man dead. So the
preacher's dangers are likely to be spiritual rather
than physical, though sometimes the enemy works
through bodily weaknesses to get to the preacher's

There are indeed some very real dangers of the
grosser sort which the minister must guard against,
such as love of money and women; but the deadliest
perils are far more subtle than these. So let's
concentrate on them.

There is, for one, the danger that the minister
shall come to think of himself as belonging to a
privileged class…Seeing whose name he bears, the
unconscious acceptance of belonging to a privileged
class is particularly incongruous for the minister.
Christ came to give, to serve, to sacrifice and to die,
and said to His disciples, “As my Father hath sent me,
even so send I you.” The preacher is a servant of the
Lord and of the people. He is in great moral peril
when he forgets this.

Another danger is that he may develop a perfunctory
spirit in the performance of the work of the
Lord. Familiarity may breed contempt even at the
very altar of God. How frightful a thing it is for the
preacher when he becomes accustomed to his work,
when his sense of wonder departs, when he gets used
to the unusual, when he loses his solemn fear in the
presence of the High and Holy One; when, to put it
bluntly, he gets a little bored with God and heavenly

If anyone should doubt that this can happen let
him read the Old Testament and see how the priests
of Jehovah sometimes lost their sense of divine
mystery and became profane even as they performed
their holy duties. And church history reveals that this
tendency toward perfunctoriness did not die with the
passing of the Old Testament order. Secular priests
and pastors who keep the doors of God's house for
bread are still among us. Satan will see to it that they
are, for they do the cause of God more injury than a
whole army of atheists would do.
— AW Tozer, God Tells the man who cares, pp. 76-77

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’” So Aaron held his peace. — Leviticus 10:1-3(KJV)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to Grow a Church

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm, a devotional tool for pastors by Richard Earl available now at www.shepherdsbalm.com.

Anyone who has been involved with church
planting or revitalization on any level knows
what a gargantuan task it is to plant and grow a
young church or to renew an old one. The
handbooks for how to do it are as the sands of the
sea, but the multiplicity of contexts for this
missionary work makes them only marginally useful.

Likewise with church transformation. The task of
taking a church from stagnation to genuine life is
herculean at the least. A bit of simple and sound
advice and encouragement according to Biblical
patterns is welcome indeed.

I found such help in the timeworn and humble
pages of Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary and
it has helped clarify my vision. Here is what good
Brother Henry said in his commentary on Acts
Chapters 1:12-14:
“A little company united in love,
exemplary in their conduct, fervent in prayer, and
wisely zealous to promote the cause of Christ, are
likely to increase rapidly.”

It is a pattern to follow, forged out of decades of
fruitful ministry experience. There are exceptions to
this rule, it is not hard and fast. Love, holiness,
prayerful, zealous and united we must be or we fail
to imitate our Master Jesus, and have no right to
expect He will want to see our model duplicated or
our influence expanded.
— Richard Earl with thanks to Matthew Henry

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Acts 1:12-14 (NKJV)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Toiling in Obscurity

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm, a devotional tool for pastors and Christian leaders published August 2010 and available at www.shepherdsbalm.com

Why does God test those he calls with a
time of obscurity before he entrusts them
with their missions? Could it be that he desires
relationship before service? If we were to get our
commission right from the start, we'd never have
time to get to know God as a person, would we?
We'd be busy working...

Relish the times of obscurity. You may wish for
them when you've been commissioned and the busy
days come.
Be flattered if God “puts you on the shelf” for
awhile. He just wants to get to know you as you
before he knows you as his worker. You the person,
with your fancies and foibles, with your delights and

God seems to love obscure pastors. After all,
there are so many of us! Like most pastors, we don’t
have “big names,” aren’t famous, and are in no
danger of becoming so. This is quite in keeping with
the way God loves to operate, employing ordinary
people, the weak, the foolish, the obscure—as
vessels and channels of His blessing to men. Finding
joy in our seeming obscurity is a secret storehouse
few enjoy.

Indeed, obscurity in ministry has its challenges.
There is generally a lack of resources- talent, money,
personnel. There are traditions we may neither
understand nor agree with. There is often a lack of
vision as the people see no point in dreaming as they
are content where they are.

The pastor in obscurity is also at risk of
depression as results and affirmation can be hard to
come by. Similarly, there are many temptations
which we must be on guard against. It is easy to take
on a dictatorial stance as there may be few whom we
can share the leadership load with. We can often fall
into the habit of laziness because of the lack of
accountability. Then there is the tendency to envy
larger churches with more influence and resources,
or to imagine they must be using methods filled with
compromise to fill their pews.

Finally, there are great benefits in ministry in an
obscure place. The sense of community is generally
stronger and more organic. It can be easy to observe
real visible change not only in the church, but in the
community in a small amount of time. We also enjoy
greater accessibility to public officials, local media,
the business community and school systems. There is
also freedom to experiment- lower cost and risk.
— Richard Earl

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering,
no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world
uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and
polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good
living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving
Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be
proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be
living proof that I didn't go to all this work for
nothing. Even if I am executed here and now, I'll
rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith
that you make on Christ's altar, a part of your
rejoicing. But turnabout's fair play—you must join
me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don't feel sorry
for me.
— Philippians 2:14-18 (The Message)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Religious Shopkeepers

The following is an excerpt from the recently published Shepherds Balm devotional for pastors. Copies may be acquired at www.shepherdsbalm.com

American pastors are abandoning their posts,
left and right, and at an alarming rate.
They’re not leaving the churches and getting other
jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their
names remain on the church stationery and they
continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they
are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have
gone whoring after other gods. What they do with
their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t
the remotest connection with what the church’s
pastors have done for most of 20 centuries.
The pastors of America have metamorphosed into
a company of shopkeepers, and the shops to keep are
churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeepers
concerns – how to keep customers happy, how to
lure customers away from competitors down the
street, how to package the goods so that the
customers will lay out more money.

Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They
attract a lot of customers, pulling great sums of
money, develop splendid reputations. It is still shop
keeping; religious shop keeping, to be sure, but shop
keeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the
fast food franchise occupy the weak minds of these
entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind
of success that will get the attention of journalists. “A
walloping great congregation is fine, and fun,” says
Martin Thornton, “but what most communities
really need is a couple of saints. The tragedy is that
they may well be there in embryo, waiting to be
discovered, waiting for sound training, waiting to be
emancipated from the cult of the mediocre.”
The biblical fact is that there are no successful
churches. There are, instead, communities of
sinners, gathered before God week after week in
towns and villages all over the world. The Holy
Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In
these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is
called pastor and given a designated responsibility in
the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep
the community attuned to God. It is this
responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.

— Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles, pp. 1-2

Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.
— 2 Corinthians 2:8 (NKJV)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What the World Wants

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm by Rich Earl, a dynamic pastors 52 week devotional tool.
Copies may be obtained at ShepherdsBalm.com for $9.99 plus $2.75 shipping.

When the Good Shepherd appeared in
Galilee, the contrast between him and the
other shepherds was perceived at once. There was
sympathy in Jesus’ tone and gentleness in his touch
which proved at once that he was with the people in
their sorrows and upward strivings. The chief
trouble with the modern church is that in too many
localities it has lost contact with the life of the town.
It is out of touch with the souls of men in their present
perplexities and needs, and hence it cannot
influence them.
The impression is abroad that Christianity is a
pretty speech, a bit of idealism, a lovely dream, a
stanza of poetry, a piece of Sunday acting, something
that the preacher can say by rote, and to which the
saints can say, “Amen”; and not a sober, serious,
week-day life. What the world most wants today is
shepherding. The world has many comforts, luxuries
in abundance; what it lacks is love. Love cannot be
satisfactorily expressed to our generation in printer's
ink, in evangelistic appeals, in pulpit eloquence, or in
doctrinal statements. The expression which the
world now demands is the love of the shepherd who
takes the lambs in his bosom, who gently leads those
who have their young, and who day by day lays down
his life for the sheep.
A genuine Christian is the only epistle which the world now
cares to read. Multitudes care little for worship, less
for church polity, still less for creeds, nothing for
traditions and ceremonies. Character is everything.
Shepherding work is the work for which humanity is
— Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd, pp.

“ I'll set shepherd-leaders over them who will take good
care of them. They won't live in fear or panic anymore.
All the lost sheep rounded up!” God's Decree.
— Jeremiah 23:4 (The Message)

Praise for Shepherds Balm

There is early praise for the new Shepherds Balm pastors devotional tool.

"Richard Earl has crafted an eloquent collage of prose and poetry, images and journaling space, to soothe a pastor's soul and heal emotional wounds—in short, a first-aid kit filled with psychological and spiritual supplies that help pastors stay fit while tending the Lord's flock." Dan Montgomery, Ph.D., Psychologist, author of Pastoral Counseling & Coaching

"In 'Shepherd's Balm,' Rich Earl is serving up for pastors some wise and soothing words for Monday mornings. Combining devotional thoughts from some of the greatest Christian minds and hearts in the past few centuries with some original insights of his own, Rich is offering just what the doctor ordered. I believe every pastor will benefit from all 52 doses." Paul E. Grabill Lead Pastor State College Assembly of God

“It will bless and challenge every pastor who reads it. It will help them face and solve many of the problems pastors face today. I recommend it highly.” Stanley M. Horton, Th.D. author

"Some volumes tell stories that make you laugh or entertain, some provide information or increase awareness of the world, and some challenge the mind. Shepherd's Balm is a work for the pastor's soul. It will inform, challenge, and reveal the condition of the shepherd's heart, then invite reflection to apply what the heart has sensed the Spirit saying to the follower of Jesus who longs to be a faithful under-shepherd to the flock of God. With the assistance of many classic authors, Pastor Earl has captured so much of the truth essential to the life and ministry of one called to serve the Master." Stephen Tourville District Superintendent- PennDel District of the Assemblies of God

Place your order now at Shepherdsbalm.com or visit Ebay for a signed copy.