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Misfits Welcome

Posted on by Philip Nation in Books, Life | Leave a comment

Matthew Barnett HeadshotThe newest book I’ve read is Misfits Welcome: Find Yourself in Jesus and Bring the World Along for the Ride by Matthew Barnett. You should read this book!

Matthew is the founder of the Dream Center in Los Angeles, a twenty-four hour church that ministers to thirty-five thousand hurting people a week. They see everything: gangsters, the sick, addicts, and orphans. All the misfits of the world come through the Dream Center’s doors in search of hope. In Misfits Welcome, Matthew shares the simple, life-changing lesson he has learned from twenty years of ministering to the forgotten: Being a misfit prepares you to do the work of the Lord.

As I reflected on the book and the story of how our misfit-ness prepares us for God’s work, it became quite personal for me. If we were all honest, you and I would admit how often we feel like a misfit. Feeling out of place. Knowing that you are unprepared for what’s in front of you. Intimidated by all of the assignments. Afraid of the crowd that is probably watching you. But then God…

God steps in. Jesus saves. The Holy Spirit empowers. Now, my life as a misfit is a perfect platform for God to show up, make my life into something extraordinary, and accomplish ministry that is seemingly impossible. At least, that’s how it feels in my life.

3d coverI am a misfit and I’m happy for it.

In ministry and work, I fill several roles. For LifeWay, I am a publishing director. It means I manage several publishing departments, interact with authors (and their agents), and travel around the country for meetings. For The Fellowship, I am the teaching pastor and an elder. It means that I preach about most Sundays each year. On top of those two things, I serve as an assistant professor for Houston Baptist University, an adjunct for Union University, and speak in conferences and churches when invited. It is pretty evident that, as a calling from the Lord, I speak a lot.

It seems the most unlikely of outcomes for a guy born with a speech impediment.

My parents wondered why I did not speak much as a small child. Then, during a procedure to remove my adenoids, the doctor noticed the irregularity in my mouth. I was diagnosed with a submucous cleft palate and had surgery to repair it. I still carry the memories of standing beside my father’s chair and doing speech exercises. Learning to pronounce R’s and L’s and S’s properly. Pile on top of that a short stature, being the youngest in my school class, and a generally low view of myself and you get a person that the world convinced was a misfit. So, when I felt called to be a preacher, I thought that the Lord had finally made His first mistake. I was terrified to do oral book reports in class. How in the world was I supposed to stand in front of a church and preach? But that day arrived.

On a Youth Sunday in 1997, I was to preach my first sermon. So, of course, I prepared a message that any 17-year old would know a great deal about: suffering, faith, and the life of Job. What was I thinking? Preparing the sermon was thrilling. The study and planning was fun. That Sunday morning was terrifying. I remember it clearly. My voice felt shaky. My knees were even worse. But, I just dropped my heart into the hands of Jesus and said, “Please help me.” And He did. The first sentence came out with some effort. I said second sentence tentatively. The third sentence changed my life. It had boldness and courage I did not possess. It seemed to reverberate in that sanctuary. The misfit was preaching the gospel. My identity in Jesus was on display for the world and I was ready to take them along for the ride.

I still feel like a misfit at times. My voice is developed and I like using it for the Lord. I love preaching and feel my faith increase when I do. As others have said, it is a beautiful thing to fall into the hands of the Lord. May I never get over the feeling that to the world I am a misfit but to Jesus, I’m just the way He intended. Weak and willing. Because of Him, available and able.

So to all the misfits out there… Come to Jesus. You are welcomed by Him.

The Last Goodbye by Billy Boyd from The Hobbit

Posted on by Philip Nation in Music | Leave a comment

A beautiful song from Billy Boyd that will conclude The Hobbit trilogy of movies. Boyd played the hobbit Pippin in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is a wonderful singer and leads the band Beecake. Take a few minutes for this one.


I saw the light fade from the sky
On the wind I heard a sigh
As the snowflakes cover my fallen brothers
I will say this last goodbye

Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away
Over hill and under trees
Through lands where never light has shone
By silver streams that run down to the Sea

Under clouds, beneath the stars
Over snow one winter’s morn
I turned at last to paths that lead home
And though where the road then takes me
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell
Many places I have been
Many sorrows I have seen
But I don’t regret
Nor will I forget
All who took that road with me

Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away
Over hill and under tree
Through lands where never light has shined
By silver streams that run down to the Sea

To these memories I will hold
With your blessing I will go
To turn at last to paths that lead home
And though where the road then takes me
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell

One Sentence Book Reviews

Posted on by Philip Nation in Books | Leave a comment

This year, I intended to read a great deal more books than I actually did. However, I think most of the books I interacted with were helpful. Since I’m not one for writing long book reviews, I decided to offer one sentence book reviews on some of the more enjoyable books I read. They are not listed in any particular order except that I hope everyone will read the first book I’ve listed from Tim Chaddick.

  1. Better: How Jesus Satisfied the Search for Meaning by Tim Chaddick – Insightful study of how Ecclesiastes is applied to a culture obsessed with self and satisfaction.
  2. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman – A fascinating study of the mechanics of leadership from a statistically validated research project.
  3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – One of the more engaging novels that I have read over the last few years that reminded me that everyone is looking for meaning and few have found it.
  4. The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Changer Maker by Brad Lomenick – A helpful look at the basics of leadership that move from the simple to the transformative.
  5. Spiritual Leadership: A Commitment to Excellence by Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders – The one book on leadership that I need to read every year.
  6. Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After by Trevin Wax – Creative story on how we help others use doubt as a tool on their journey toward faith.
  7. Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life by Eric Metaxas – Well-written case for the existence of miracles down to the level that our very life on Earth is an act only God could arrange.
  8. Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda by Henry Blackaby & Richard Blackaby – A study on how leadership and godly character are intrinsically linked.
  9. Transformational Groups: Creating a New Scorecard for Groups by Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger – Solid insights from trusted leaders about how small groups become more effective in your church.
  10. Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Church out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church by Peyton Jones – Quick hit book that will spark you to think more critically about why our churches glom on to new ideas when the old ones might be the best.
  11. You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins – For the aspiring author, it is a great book to encourage your desire to pursue the work.
  12. I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer – Enjoyable read about why being a part of the church is such a great life.
  13. Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life by Eric Mason – A quick read that will whet your appetite to let go of the useless stuff in your life.
  14. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns – Frustrating but necessary foray into how those from a different theological position understand the Bible to not be entirely true.
  15. Killing Floor by Lee Childs – The first novel with Childs’ character Jack Reacher left me somewhat curious to read more in the series but not interested enough to buy another book.
  16. The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro – A fun twist on the long-standing mythology around vampires and the hope that anyone can be the hero of a story.
  17. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – The stories of Holmes remind us that genius is generally accompanied with eccentricity.
  18. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy – A masterful novel about the need to persist through the troubles of life in order to fulfill the destiny that we know lies ahead of us.


Mobile Connections Exceed Human Population: What It Means for the Church

Posted on by Philip Nation in Church, Mission, Tech | Leave a comment

Sometimes, we exaggerate a point to make the point. Technically, it is referred to as hyperbole. In respect to how people treat technology, it is used quite often in order to warn us of being so consumed with our video screens that we miss what is actually happening around us. I believe we no longer need to refer to that warning as hyperbole.

iphoneAs of this month, the number of mobile connections in the world has exceeded the human population of the world. According to GSMA Intelligence, as of 7:00 am CST on December 11, 2014, there are more than 7,323,485,000 mobile connections in the world. As of the same time, according to Worldometers, the human population of the world is around 7,280,336,000. The crossing of these two statistics likely signals significant changes that have happened and will happen in the future.

As believers, we need to seek to understand how this has been affecting and will continue to affect how we interact with the people around us. As our mission is to reach people who are separated from God, knowing how they give and receive information is critical to our ministry. I would offer the following subjects for leaders in ministry to consider for the work of our churches.

  1. How people consume information is knowledge for us to have but not knowledge that controls us. No matter what, people need to encounter the gospel in speech, word, and deed.
  2. The manner by which people communicate is an opportunity to seize, not an obstacle to overcome. We should celebrate every means of telling the truth.
  3. Mobile connections is the natural environment of communication for some while still an optional environment for others. Even in places like North America where having a smart phone is easy, we have not fully tipped into a purely texting, SnapChatting, Instragramming, Pinteresting world of communication. We must still maintain a spectrum of communication methods.
  4. The landscape of human communication methods has been evolving for centuries. The current change is not an issue of despair. The church has not always done well in seizing new technologies. I am hopeful that this is a change that we can leverage for the good of our mission.
  5. We now have even easier access to much of the world’s population for delivering the Scripture as a whole and the Gospel in particular. It is good news for the way we prepare and engage for international mission work.
  6. It is not a signal that there are more tech savvy people but that technology has become a more accessible manner of life for everyone. The church has an opportunity to step in and even step ahead of the curve if we will choose to do so.
  7. The numbers do not mean that every person on the planet has a smart phone or digital mobile device. It means that some people have more than one while others are still operating outside of the mobile device ecosystem. The church must still be ready to reach into the disadvantaged cultures of the world with the hope of the gospel; which is untethered from any technology.
  8. The number of people reading from video screens instead of physical books has increased. But it does not signal the end of the printed page. Churches must help people interact with the Bible not just in regularity but in the very method of consumption.
  9. Neuroscientists continue to study what the impact is of reading and studying through digital screens versus consuming the same information through the printed page. The educational process of people may yet go through several iterations in the next two decades. Church leaders cannot be absent from this conversation as it has a serious impact on the discipling process of believers.
  10. Anyone and any church can have a worldwide impact because of such changes in how communication occurs. A few decades ago, the only way to impact a larger number of people was through radio, television, or cassette tape ministry. A decade ago, podcasts changed our ability to communicate with anyone who had an Internet connection. With the crossing of this numeric threshold, we must seek the new ways that worldwide and local impact interact with one another for every church.


My Interview with Dr. Robert Sloan

Posted on by Philip Nation in Discipleship, Leadership | 1 Comment

I was recently honored to appear on A Higher Education with the Dr. Robert Sloan. He serves as the president of Houston Baptist University. During the course of the radio interview, it was announced by his co-host Dr. Jeremiah Johnston that I will fill the role of Assistant Professor of Leadership and Biblical Studies for HBU. My work with LifeWay and ministry with The Fellowship will continue as normal. The work I do with HBU will be in traveling periodically to Houston to teach in their Fastterms and periodically visit the campus for special lectures.

During our conversation, Dr. Sloan and I had the opportunity to discuss the intersection of discipleship and leadership development. I hope you will find some helpful information during our 25 minute conversation.

I would also encourage you to check out Jeremiah’s ministry as well – Christian Thinkers Society. We are working closely together to develop some interesting products from LifeWay in partnership with Jeremiah and CTS.

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