Book Review: The Most Excellent Way to Lead by Perry Noble

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I read and reviewed this book before the news came out about Perry Noble no longer being the Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church. However, my opinions on this book, what I learned from it, and what I liked about it, hasn’t changed. I am heartbroken over the news and what has happened in the life of Perry as well as NewSpring Church but believe we can all still learn something from this excellent book.

One of the books I just finished was Perry Noble’s newest book on leadership called The Most Excellent Way to Lead. I have always enjoyed Noble’s leadership stuff as well as his books (his book Overwhelmed was a game changer for me personally) so I was excited to read this one.

When most people hear “1 Corinthians 13” they automatically think of the “love chapter.” It’s a chapter that is usually tied into the topic love in the context of marriage or a relationship. However, Noble argues (and I would agree with him) that it seems like this is chapter is better suited for the context of leadership. As Noble says, “In 1 Corinthians 12, the emphasis of Paul’s writing to the church is on spiritual gifts, leadership, and the importance of working together. In 1 Corinthians 14, he continues this line of reasoning as he encourages leaders to sound a clear call for their followers. But right in the middle of these two chapters we find 1 Corinthians 13” (page 5). Noble continues by arguing the context of chapter 13 then is leadership. He says, “Paul is continuing his discussion about leadership here, and when he says he’s going to show you the most excellent way, I believe he’s saying, ‘I will show you the most excellent way to lead” (page 6).

Throughout this book, Noble uses Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 13 to show his readers how to become better leaders. In this book Noble addresses the heart of the leader. Like Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians 13, the heart of the leader is most important. The way to become a better leader is through having the right heart attitude.

I want to change up the way I do the rest of this review. I want to share three things I really liked about this book.

First, it focused less on what leaders do and more on who leaders are. This book focuses on the heart of the leader. If the heart of the leader is in the right place than correct and loving leadership will flow out of them. Noble shares very practical leadership advice throughout this book but the theme throughout is the heart of the leader. Through this book, God showed me a lot about my heart in regards to my leadership. I was encouraged, challenged, and convicted. It was just what I needed for this season of my leadership journey.

Second, it included a ton of great leadership one liners. One of the things I have always enjoyed about Noble’s leadership stuff (podcasts, articles, etc.) is his great leadership one liners. These are simple statements that contain a wealth of leadership knowledge and advice. At the end of each chapter this book includes a page of “summary statements” from that chapter. Just having these pages to look back on and read the leadership one liners is huge!

Third, I appreciated Noble’s honesty and humility throughout this book. Noble shares a good bit of his leadership failures and mistakes. He even shares about seasons in his life that were very dark and things that most leaders with his platform would like to keep quiet. I was encouraged by his authenticity and humility. He isn’t a guy who is claiming he has it all together and he has done it all correctly and we should follow him. He shares his failures, faults, and mistakes but continually points to God and how God has continued to shape him into a better leader.

The book is very straight-forward, easy to read, and will impact those leaders who take the time to read it. I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves in a leadership position to read it.

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Bullying: What Does God Say?

Bullying Sermon SlideRecently we took a break from our current teaching series in our middle school ministry so we could address the topic of bullying. This is an issue that all students face at some point. Some are the bullies, some of the bullied, and some are bystanders. We want our students to hear about bullying not just from their teachers or parents (even though that’s very important and we encourage that) but more importantly from the Bible and what God says about how we should treat others.

Not only did we address what the Bible says about how we should treat others, we did an onstage interview with a young lady from our church who is a therapist and works with students. You can watch the entire talk below.

What Students Are Looking for In Sex and Relationships

Made To CraveA few weeks ago we finished a series in our middle school ministry called “Made to Crave.” The whole idea of the series was to explain to students that we all have a desire for intimacy and we try and fulfill that craving through sex and relationships. What we find is those things still leave us feeling empty. The reason we are left feeling empty is because that craving can only be fulfilled by a intimate relationship with Jesus. God created us to crave Him and only He can truly fulfill us. I finished off the series by talking about three things students look for in sex and relationships that can only truly be found in Jesus. I want to share those three things and a few thoughts I shared with our students. So here are three things students crave that can only be found in Jesus.

1. Love. The most obvious thing students are looking for in sex and relationships is love. They want to find someone that will love them unconditionally. They crave that type of love. Unfortunately, the unconditional love they are craving cannot be found within human relationships. Sure, two humans can love each other, but it is still stained by sin. The unconditional love students crave is love that can only be found in Jesus. The Bible uses the Greek word agape, which is unconditional love that can only come from God. It’s a love that’s deeper and more real than any love two humans could ever have between for each other. Paul shares about this incredible love in Romans 8:38-39“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2. Acceptance. Not only are students looking for love, but they are also looking for acceptance. So they run to sex or a relationship because they want to feel accpeted. They want someone to love them and accept them for who they are. But because they fear someone will not like them for who they are, they change. They change their looks, what they wear, how they talk, who they hang around, and sometimes abandon their Christian faith, all for the sake of being accepted by someone of the opposite sex. They also will go to extreme lengths to cover their flaws and mistakes. Deep down they just want to find acceptance. This acceptance they are looking for can only be found in Jesus. Sadly, even when people get married acceptance is still at stake. That’s why some many couples get divorced, even Christian couples! One of them does something wrong or starts to act differently and the other person no longer accepts them.

In John 8 we read about a woman who was in adultery that Jesus accepted. The Pharisees brought her to Jesus and pointed out her sin. But what did Jesus do? He accepted her, the flaws and all. He didn’t condemn her, but accepted her and told her to go and sin no more. He didn’t make her change who she was or clean up her act before He accepted her. Students crave this kind of radical, real acceptance and it can only be found in Jesus.

3. Security. This is a big one. Students crave security and they try to find it in sex or a relationship. But what they find out is that even in those things there isn’t real security. If anything, their is a false security. Again, divorce is proof that security cannot even be found in most marriages. Students want to feel safe and secure so they give their bodies to someone else thinking that will make them feel safe. As if that person will love them and nothing can change that. Or they enter a relationship and find their security in that, but that all changes when the other person decides to end the relationship. Jesus offers total security within a relationship with Him. Jesus said in John 10:28-29, ““I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” 

Students are craving love, acceptance, and security. The bad news is they are running to sex and relationships to try and find these three things, but at the end of the day they are left empty and still searching. Jesus offers students love, acceptance, and security in a personal relationship with Him. The Gospel reminds us that we sinners and entered this world separated from God. But God sacrificed His own Son so our sins can be forgiven and the wrath of God absorbed. Christ took our sin and gave us His righteousness so we can be loved, accepted, and secure in a relationship with the One who created us. Point students towards Jesus!

Click here to listen to the audio of this entire message.

Common Questions from Teens About Homosexuality (Part 2)

imagesHomosexuality is an issue our teenagers are facing more and more as time goes on. Our culture says it’s ok, but as Christians, who believe God’s Word, we believe it is sin and not part of God’s design. Our teenagers are hearing both sides of the argument and many of them have questions. In the first post of this series, I answered two common questions teens ask about homosexuality. In this second post I want to answer two more common questions I have heard teens ask about homosexuality.

Is homosexuality worse than other sins? I believe many teens ask this question because they see Christians respond more severely to homosexuality than other sins. We need to be careful our teens don’t see us “categorizing” sin as if some sins are worse than others. An important principle to teach teens is that all sin is equal, but earthly consequences are different. No matter how “big” or “small,” sin is always sin and it will send you to hell unless you repent and believe in Christ. However, the earthly consequences of sin may differ (note I said earthly because the consequences are the same after death-hell). For an example, someone may get angry and become bitter towards another person. That is still sin, but they may not face any horrendous earthly consequences. But someone could go out and murder someone and face major earthly consequences. Both are sin, but the earthly consequences are different. Don’t let teens believe homosexuality is different than other sins. It’s still a sin Christ died for and can forgive. Homosexuals are no worse than other sinners. The ground is level at the foot of the cross and the Gospel covers all sins.

Why do some Christians hate homosexuals? One of my biggest pet peeves is Christians who show no love for people in sin or who oppose their Christian faith. The best example of this, and why many teens will ask this question, is Westboro Baptist. Westboro Baptist is this “church” that has built it’s ministry on expressing what they believe is God’s hate for homosexuals. They picket funerals and waste their time holding up signs that say “God hates fags.” They are not Christian at all and I do not believe they have ever experienced real Christianity or accepted the Biblical Gospel. Many teens see this and get turned off to Christianity because they believe it is what Christianity looks like. Let’s do our best to show teens that true Christianity is loving the sinner and doing whatever we can to share with them the life changing truth of the Gospel! Those “Christians” who hate homosexuals do nothing but make Christians look less like Christ. Please hear me, I’m not supporting homosexuality and saying it’s ok (it’s not!), but I do not believe Christians should hate or treat homosexuals differently. They are real people, like you and me, who have a fallen sin nature and need a relationship with Jesus. Show them Jesus, not hate.

I hope these posts have been helpful to you as you talk to teens about the issue of homosexuality. It’s a growing issue in our culture and we must equip our teens to view and approach it in a way that’s God honoring and faithful to His Word. I hope these two posts on answering teens questions about homosexuality have been helpful. I encourage you to spend time in God’s Word, build your convictions on this issue from that, and in love communicate to your teens about why homosexuality is wrong.

What Students Need From Their Youth Leaders

Students crave the attention of an older adult that takes an interest in them. Just go up to a middle school student and show interest in his or her life and you will become one of their best friends. High school students may not be that quick, but the principle is still the same.

So how does this impact our student ministry? We know students need something from older, Godly adults, but what is it exactly they need? I believe there are a few things that students need from a youth leader. This can be from the student pastor or a volunteer in the ministry.

Someone whom they can follow towards Jesus. Before you get all “super spiritual” on me and say students don’t need to follow a person they need to follow Jesus, let me share with you Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:1. Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul knew he was following Jesus in such a way he could tell others to follow him. This wasn’t a prideful suggestion, but a humble recommendation of a man who knew Whom he was following. Students need youth leaders who are following Jesus in such a way they can look them in the eyes and say “follow me.”

Someone who really loves them. Students are looking for someone who will accept them for who they are and love them through their struggles. Students in our culture are struggling with addictions, relationships, and faith. They need youth leaders who will spend less time judging them and spending more time loving them with a Christ-centered love. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have to approve of their sin, but we need to hate the sin so much, we need to love them in such a way as to help them overcome whatever it is in their life. I am always encouraging youth leaders to not be afraid to get down and dirty with their student’s struggles. Students need youth leaders who will do just that.

Someone who will enforce the rules. I wasn’t sure of the best way to title this last point, but I hope to get the idea across. Students will never admit it, but they enjoy rules and boundaries. I am always encouraging my youth leaders to enforce rules and not be afraid to be the authority figure to students. This goes back to the point before, when you really love them you will have to be the “bad guy” at times. Students don’t need another adult who just lets them do whatever they want, they need an adult who will be an authority figure, who will help them mature into young adults for the glory of God.

I could go on and on, but I believe these are three of the most important things students need from their youth leaders. I have seen these areas come up time and time again in my ministry and want to continue encouraging youth leaders to be the type of adults students need.

This post was originally a guest post I wrote for Rachel Blom’s Youth Leaders Academy. YLA is a great site with tons of training content for student pastors and youth workers.