I recently read three books I’d like to share that have impacted the way I look at pastoral ministry. I’m anticipating that their effects will be felt in my life and vocation for many years.


The first is Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor: A Memoir, which is an engaging look at his own journey from the Montana wilderness to the east coast as he uncovers his calling as a pastor. Peterson has always been a big influence on me, and seeing his development in the ministry was interesting and encouraging.


Letters to a Young Pastor is the late Calvin Miller’s collection of advice to young leaders in letter form. His commentary on the pastoral life was both challenging and hilarious as he talked about setbacks, victories, and the occasional church politics run-in.


Finally, Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry addresses the overall state of the North American pastorate from a behavioral health standpoint. Gut-wrenching in all the necessary ways, this book is a wake-up call to pastors who labor to see Jesus magnified, their families cared for, and their own ministry longevity.

At, Kurt Bubna gives list of 10 non-negotiables for aspiring church planters:

  1. clear call to church planting which is confirmed by other leaders and pastors who know them and have worked closely with them.
  2. supportive spouse and a stable, healthy marriage and family.
  3. A strong emotional resilience. (Without it, they won’t likely survive.)
  4. A heart for evangelism with a proven gift and ability to reach the lost.
  5. capable teacher who is an anointed and gifted communicator.
  6. A proven ability to gather and inspire others.
  7. A demonstrated ability to start something new.
  8. A proven ability to recruit, train and deploy others into ministry.
  9. A demonstrated track record of wisdom in life and in leadership.
  10. teachable heart proven by the ability to take direction and constructive criticism without defensiveness or arrogance.

While I don’t claim to be an expert in missiology, my experience over the last year at The Well supports his post. Every point above is critical to the long-term success of the church and the well-being of the planter.

You can read the entire article here.

In Part 1, I introduced the topic of spiritual violence using the life of John the Baptist as our prime example. In this post I’d like to give a few more examples from the pages of Scripture of people who, in their own way and their own time, lived lives that we spiritually violent.

First, let’s consider a hero of the faith from the Old Testament. King David was the simple shepherd boy who God referred to as the man after His own heart. As he sought God on those sprawling hills near Bethlehem, he became a diligent worshiper with the early skills of a leader preparing to care for the Lord’s nation. He was such a devoted servant that he sought to put comfort and convenience aside in order that God would be glorified. In Psalm 132, David was remembered to have said, “Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, Or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes Or slumber to my eyelids, Until I find a place for the LORD, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (v. 3-5). This posture made David a man who embraced spiritual violence to serve God with all of his being.

Next, let’s consider the Apostle Paul. We all know Paul as the man who, after a radical conversion experience, gave up all of his social and religious clout to follow Jesus and spread the Gospel to the nations. If that weren’t enough to qualify as violent, you can look at the list of things he endured in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 to take the message abroad. To that list, Paul added a qualifier in Philippians 3:13-14 when he said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” In other words, all the good work that had been done, as well as all the bad things that occurred (consider again the list), Paul hit delete. He constantly wiped the slate clean to propel himself further into the grace and love of Jesus.

Lastly, we will consider the simple example of Mary of Bethany. In John 12:1-7, the story is told of how Mary anointed Jesus for burial. The oil of spikenard she used was worth an entire year’s salary, and she poured it out on Him without hesitation or regard to the disciples’ objections. All of her financial security and hope for a future–perhaps even a husband–was represented in the vial. Unfortunately, we don’t have time or space to consider all these heroes of spiritual violence, but you can always turn to Hebrews 11 to learn glean from their examples.

And don’t forget to consider the life and example of the One who gave it all for us in the most extravagant act of holy violence–Christ Jesus.

Just over a week ago at The Well I shared briefly on the topic of spiritual violence. It was just enough to evoke a few questions and comments, so I’d like to elaborate a bit on the topic.

The verse I quoted to begin the discussion was Matthew 11:12:  “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (NKJV). Interesting, don’t you think? Here we find Jesus isolating something about John the Baptist that caught Jesus’ attention enough to merit His commentary. What was it that Jesus was saying here?

Just before He says what He does in verse 12, He says something that is so incredible that it’s hardly imaginable. Jesus says in verse 11, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” In other words, of all the humans that have ever lived (except Himself, of course), John is the greatest of them all.

What made John the Baptist so great? Why did heaven “suffer violence” because of him? What does it mean to suffer violence anyway?

The first thing we can rule out is that heaven can be somehow injured because something humans can do. This isn’t suffering that we ordinarily think of. It’s more like “undergoes” or “puts up with.” Heaven is affected, for sure, but not in a negative way.

Next, the violence done isn’t physical violence. We don’t have a record of John hurting anyone. In fact, all the hurtin’ was put on him, in the end. So, “violence” is referring to a forceful act, but no animals have been harmed in its production.

What we’re left with is a picture of John the Baptist in the wilderness, fasting and praying, living a simple lifestyle, waiting on the voice of God. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets whose job it was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. And, in all that, he got the attention of heaven. John the Baptist was a force to be reckoned with because of his faithful lifestyle and his obedience that ran right up until the end of his life. He said that he was a friend of the Bridegroom and because he heard the voice of the Bridegroom, he was full of joy (John 3:29). And he knew that as Jesus’ life and ministry increased, his job would be to fade to the background to put a brighter spotlight on Him (John 3:30). He is a picture of those who are completely sold out to the kingdom and its King and would do anything to bring honor and glory to Him. And that’s something that gets heaven’s attention.

Next, we’ll develop this a bit more and talk about others in Scriptures who embodied this reality along with John the Baptist.

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