Summer Vacation

Summer break

My elders have been kind enough to give me a longer summer break than normal this year. Because of that I won’t be posting anything new on my blog until July 18th (at which time I’ll be back with some great new stuff for you), so that we can rest, recharge and enjoy some time as a family. I’ll also be posting less on social media, but I’ll be posting fun pictures of our adventures on Instagram.

In the meantime, here are some of the top posts on my blog to keep you company until I get back:

Healthy Marriage

Productivity

Healthy Leadership

Personal Health & Fitness

Healthy Preaching

And if you’re looking for something to read this summer, first start with my book Breathing Room: Stressing Less and Living More, and then after that pick something from my summer reading pile:

Have a great summer!

8 Thoughts on on Being a Dad on Father’s Day

father's day

As today is Father’s Day, and now being a dad for over 10 years and a son for a lot longer than that, I thought I’d share some things about being a dad.

1. In our culture, being a man is difficult. I know that being a woman is incredibly difficult, and I’m not wading into a historical debate or sexism in our culture (which sadly still exists). The reason I say it is hard is because of a lack of clarity, which is also one reason why being a woman is hard (but that’s a different blog post).

Most people have no idea what a man actually is. Now with people choosing their gender identity, the lines are becoming even more blurry than they already are. This makes success as a father, husband, friend, brother and son that more difficult. Are men supposed to be tough or tender and cry a lot? Should they be hard workers and entrepreneurs or play video games until 4am? All of them at once? Which is it?

2. Purity is really hard. I’m not just talking about sex here, but that’s part of it. Having a pure mind, a pure heart, pure motives as you pursue your dreams, those are all incredibly difficult. Sometimes this is because we are sinning, but other times it is because what we are pursuing is right, but it just doesn’t line up with what people around us think we should do.

3. Parenting is really hard. I know, parenting has always been hard. Throw in now raising kids with social media, exposure to porn at an early age, the gender conversation, and it is really hard. It is hard to keep kids focused on who they are, who God is while everything gets pulled in a different direction. On top of that, everyone has an opinion on every parenting topic: discipline, vaccines, schooling, sports, dating, and you often feel like a failure. I figure my kids will end up in a counselor’s office when they’re adults (I did). I just hope it isn’t that bad. Just writing that makes me feel like a failure of a dad, but you can judge.

4. Being a picture of God as a Father to my kids is scary. Going along with #3, I’m reminded on a daily basis that my kids are forming a picture of not only relationships with others but with God as they interact with me. Here’s a question every dad needs to keep in the front of his mind: What is it like on the other side of me? What emotions and feelings do people (my kids and spouse) have as they interact with me? As your kids grow up, that is what they will often feel from God.

5. Dealing with your wounds is hard work. Depending on your upbringing, your wounds will be different than mine. But you have them, and they make an impact on your life today. I’ve talked before about mine, but if you don’t deal with yours, they will haunt your future. You have wounds, and they are impacting every relationship you have. They are impacting every interaction, everything you hear. But it is hard work. I want to leave what happened when I was 11 back in 1990 with Vanilla Ice. But I can’t, and neither can you.

6. Having friends is hard work. Let’s be honest, friends for most people are difficult. For men they seem to be a lot harder than I expected. In college hanging out was easy. In your 20’s, really easy. Now with jobs, mortgages, kids, marriage, moving across the country, being friends with people is hard. We expect people to keep up with our lives on social media but never really connect with them. I keep hearing from men in their 50’s and 60’s about how they have no close friends, and that is really scary to me. I asked a room full of young church planters recently how many of them had close friends, and in a room of a 100 just a few hands went up.

7. I’m astounded by my wife. Regularly when people hear we have five kids, the looks are often comical. Sometimes they say what is running through their heads, sometimes not. I always fill in the blanks if they don’t say it out loud, but they always stop in their tracks. They wonder how we ever sleep, have time for ourselves, not lose our minds, and it takes being intentional for all of that to happen. That’s why I’m simply blown away by Katie. Without her I wouldn’t be the father, husband, leader or man that I am. When church planters ask how Revolution got off the ground, my response is, “Besides God, my wife.” The way she rounds me out, holds our house together, pushes me, believes in me, deals with me, deals with our kids, it astounds me.

8. I’m hopeful about it all. We’re about to enter the teenage years in our house, and I’m hopeful. I love the relational beings my kids are becoming, the questions they are asking (even though we’re having the sex talks a lot earlier than I thought we would when I was a young parent), I love playing games with them and experiencing life. I also love that I have the privilege of raising five people who will make an impact on the world one day. That thought shapes my parenting every day. I get to be a part of the legacy they will leave.

5 Books Every Pastor & Church Staff Should Read

The old adage “leaders are readers” is true. The same goes for a leadership team or staff team at a church. Yet with so many books on the market, it is hard to know which ones to read as a team and which ones will be helpful. When I’m asked about books we have read at Revolution or ones I think are particularly helpful for pastors and church planters, I find myself going back to the same ones.

the advantage

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

The Advantage is all of Lencioni’s books wrapped up into one. I think it is one of the most thorough and helpful books for a leader to read. The discussions around clarity and organizational health are something most churches struggle with, and if they got it right it would not only help take their churches to new levels, but it would also help them reach more people.

book

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins

If you run in leadership circles, you have probably read Good to Great, but the wisdom in it seems incredibly timeless. I have read through this book multiple times, and the images that he uses to get his point across are incredibly helpful.

chess not checkers

Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller

This book was a game changer for me. This is a book that explains what happens in a church at each growth barrier without the church or its leaders knowing. If you are facing a growth barrier or can’t figure out why something isn’t working, start with this book.

book

Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow by Carey Nieuwhof

Carey’s book helps you as a leader and a team have conversations you need to have about why your church isn’t growing, why people don’t want to serve, why the next generation isn’t that interested in the gospel and what to do about it.

teams that thrive

Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership by Warren Bird & Ryan Hartwig

This is the best book on teams in a church. The authors lay out what a healthy team looks like, what they do, how they operate and how to move your team to becoming a team that thrives.

How we Distort the Gospel & God’s Love for Us

gospel

I shared this on Sunday in my sermon on Romans 5:3 – 11 from The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson:

This comes to expression when the gospel is preached in these terms: God loves you because Christ died for you!

How do those words distort the gospel? They imply that the death of Christ is the reason for the love of God for me.

By contrast the Scriptures affirm that the love of God for us is the reason for the death of Christ. That is the emphasis of John 3:16. God (i.e. the Father, since here “God” is the antecedent of “his…Son”) so loved the world that he gave his Son for us. The Son does not need to do anything to persuade the Father to love us; he already does!

The subtle danger here should be obvious: if we speak of the cross of Christ as the cause of the love of the Father, we imply that behind the cross and apart from it he may not actually love us at all. He needs to be “paid” a ransom price in order to love us. But if it has required the death of Christ to persuade him to love us (“Father, if I die, will you begin to love them?”), how can we ever be sure the Father himself loves us – “deep down” with an everlasting love? True, the Father does not love us because we are sinners; but he does love us even though we are sinners. He loved us before Christ died for us. It is because he loves us that Christ died for us!

How to Prepare a Sermon

sermon

I’m often asked by other pastors or church planters about how I prep a sermon. While these aren’t so much things you should do, these are things that are principles for me and shape how a sermon goes from nothing to something.

1. Plan ahead. My goal is to know 18 months in advance what I plan to preach on. This is crucial to my process. I’m a big believer that the Holy Spirit is just as likely to talk to me about a sermon 18 months before I preach it as He is the day before I preach it.

I start by getting away and praying through what am I learning right now, how God is challenging or convicting me personally, and if there is anything in that for my church or is it just for me. I also keep a list of questions I get asked by people in our church through emails and conversations and look to see if there are any common themes to them. During this time I also look back to see what we’ve preached on, what books we’ve covered, how long has it been since we preached through an Old Testament book or a gospel, and when was the last relationships series. I’ll ask leaders in our church about conversations they are having, questions they have, and books they think we should preach through.

Then I take all of these notes and pray over them, seeing what jumps out. I’ll read through certain books of the Bible to get a sense of what God might want to say to our church. After spending several weeks praying and thinking through this, I’ll share with our team what I’m thinking. At this point it is between penciled in and permanent marker.

We’ve changed series at the last minute and tossed something we had been planning to do for over a year. That happens, and you have to be flexible.

I’ll be honest; this step is by far the hardest part of sermon prep. It takes the most time and has the least amount of immediate payoff, which is why most guys don’t do it. I meet so many guys who are just week-to-week or month-to-month.

2. Research. Once I have a sermon outlined, meaning I create what passages I’ll do on which week, how I’ll break up a book of the Bible, I go to work on researching it. I’ll create a notebook in Evernote and then a notebook in that folder for each week of the series. When I come across an article, a podcast or a blog, I simply hit the shortcut button on my chrome bar and put it into the folder. This is incredibly helpful when you are preaching on a controversial topic like homosexuality. At this point I might read the article, but I’m just gathering things. This is one of the biggest advantages to planning ahead in preaching.

For example, in the summer of 2017 I’m planning to do a series on spiritual practices or disciplines. So right now I’m pulling stuff on how habits are formed, looking at spiritual disciplines and how to best communicate and practice things like reading your Bible, fixed hour prayer, silence and solitude, fasting, etc.

3. A few months out. At this point, I start reading books that cover some of the topics I’ll be preaching on. I started preaching through Romans in March 2016, and so towards the end of 2015 I began reading books by John Piper and others on the book of Romans and some of what is covered in the book.

4. The week of. The week of a sermon is what most people think of when they think about preparing a sermon. And while I spend about 20 hours a week on sermon prep, as you can see, it is not all dedicated to the current sermon.

On Monday morning I spend a couple of hours preparing my heart by listening to worship music, reading some soul reading (John Piper or someone who has been dead for centuries) and reading through the passage I’ll preach on. I write out what stands out, what God is saying to me through the passage, etc. I think the most powerful part of a sermon is when the pastor says, “And here’s how this passage has been working on me this week.”

Monday or Tuesday I’ll start working through commentaries. When I started out I would read 8 – 10 commentaries and gather so much information that I never used it all. Most commentaries say the same things. Go to www.bestcommentaries.com and buy the top ones. My favorites are the NICNT or NICOT, The Message series by John Stott and the NIV Application Commentary. I’ll veer from that depending on reviews, but those are typically the ones I use.

I’ll also pull up the Evernote folder at this point and look through it. What is helpful, what can I use, etc.

My goal is to have all of my sermon stuff largely done by Wednesday at noon. This gives our team time to edit what goes in the program, what is on the screen and to make sure our next steps stuff is all ready to go.

At this point the sermon isn’t done, but is cooking.

5. Saturday. Every week I make a playlist on Spotify of the songs that the band is going to be doing. On Saturday afternoon I’ll take a run, listen to that playlist and pray through my sermon, the people who will be there, the things on my heart. This is such a crucial time for me and what God is doing in my heart as I prepare.

6. Sunday morning. I try to be sitting at my computer by 5:30 on Sunday morning. This is a final time to prepare for the day. I look at my heart, confess sin, and listen to worship music, go over my notes and edit them down. I also do my best to memorize my intro and conclusion. How will I present the gospel? How will I lay out the challenge? While I try to not look at my notes, I want the beginning and the end to be as solid as possible.

Then like all pastors, I drive home on Sunday with things I wished I had said or said differently.

But then I get to do it all over again the next Sunday!

20 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Pastor & 4 Other Ideas to Grow Your Leadership

leader

Here are 5 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, pastor, husband and father. I hope they help you too:

  1. How Sleep Benefits a Leaders Brain by Charles Stone
  2. Encouragement is 51% of Leadership by Dan Reiland
  3. A Different Take on Reaching Millenials by Carey Nieuwhof
  4. 20 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Pastor by Brandon Hilgemann
  5. Seven Ways to Improve Your Preaching by Kevin DeYoung

Two Things Every Church Planter Must Know

church

I’m often asked what I would tell church planters or what a church planter should know before they take the plunge into church planting. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here’s what I told them the other day:

1. Know that you (and your wife) are called. This seems obvious since the qualifications of a pastor and elder start with this in the New Testament, but it is amazing to me how many guys think church planting would be fun. Let’s define that. Fun is going to the beach, hiking with my wife, playing with my kids. As one author said, “Church planting can kill you.” It can certainly kill your marriage if you aren’t careful (or called). If you aren’t called, don’t even think about it. If your wife is not called, and she needs to be just as called you are, then don’t plant a church. You are now one, which means you must both be bought in. If she has doubts or hesitations, listen to her as the Holy Spirit may be using her to talk to you.

The reason calling is so important is because the Bible says it is important. There is a reason this is the first qualification in 1 Timothy 3. The other reason is that leadership is hard, and church planting can be brutal. There will be times when no one likes you, they are spewing venom at you, stabbing you in the back, leaving your church in droves, spreading rumors about you; core team members that bail, donors who forget to send a check, leaders who sin and then get mad because you hold them accountable. And those are just Christians. Wait until your church is fully on mission and reaching people who are far from God. The bottom line, on those days (and there are more of those days than any other days in church planting), your calling is the only thing that will keep you going. I can tell you from experience that the only reason Katie and I started Revolution and made it to where we are now is because God called us to it. It gives you the determination, the energy, the passion and the fortitude to fight.

2. Know what you will be, not just what you won’t be. Lots of people plant a church because they are too smart for the church where they are on staff. Every student pastor I have ever met (and I used to be one) is smarter than their lead pastor. Why else would they be the student pastor under the lead pastor? Makes sense. So many guys start a church simply to prove how smart they are, how innovative they are and how if only everyone who had stood in their way would have seen the light, revival would have happened.

Whenever I meet with a guy who wants to plant I ask him, “What will you do, and who will you try to reach?” This answer should take less than 30 seconds to give. Anything longer than this and it isn’t clear in your head. If it isn’t clear in your head, it won’t be clear for anyone else. How can you form a core team who will give up time, money and energy for something that doesn’t yet exist? How will you get churches to partner with you, support you and pray for you if you can’t tell them why they should?

Making the Most of Your Family Rhythm & 8 other Ideas to Help you Grow as Leader, Spouse & Parent

leader

Here are 9 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, preacher, husband and father. I hope they help you too:

  1. Six Questions Leaders Should Routinely Ask Themselves by Eric Geiger
  2. 15 Things No One Ever Sees Which Largely Determine A Pastor’s Success by Brian Dodd
  3. Making the Most of Your Family Rhythm by Parent Cue
  4. 9 Of The Best Communication Tips For Churches by Steve Fogg
  5. How Our Sex Life Manifests Our Soul Health by John Piper
  6. Why Referring to “Screen Time” May Not Be Helpful to You or Your Kids by John Charles Dickey Dyer
  7. The Remedy for Our Helicopter Parenting by Gloria Furman
  8. 10 Ways to Be An Exceptional Parent by Doug Fields
  9. 4 Ways a Church Benefits from Having a Healthy Pastor by Dan Carson

Just in Time for Summer!

BreathingRoom-ebooksale-kindle

My book Breathing Room: Stressing Less, Living More is on sale for the next 2 weeks for $2.99. If you haven’t gotten it, now is the time.

If you have read it, thank you for that. Maybe now is the time to give it as a gift to someone.

Here’s what the book is about:

Finding breathing room in finances, schedules, and relationships leads to enjoying and savoring life instead of simply going through the motions. Breathing Room is a chance not only to catch your breath, but the road to the life you have come to believe is impossible.

Feeling trapped or closed in by the intensity of life is a common ailment in today’s world. You may have come to the point of telling yourself “This is just the way it is.” Don’t believe it. There is another way. Breathing Room will help you understand why you are tired, in debt, overweight, and relationally isolated—and how to move forward.

But before getting to the tips and ideas, you will uncover how you got there and why you are living as you are right now. Until you uncover those crucial pieces, you will simply find yourself spinning your wheels. You want to live the life Jesus promised, a life that is overflowing and abundant. This book holds the answers you need to fulfill that promise. Once you read it, you will have the breathing room you need.

Here’s what others have said about the book:

“You can’t underestimate how critical mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health – or as Josh calls it, Breathing Room – is in the success of a leader. Josh gives an honest account of what led him to dramatically change his life, busts the life-balance myth, and provides practical steps to help others turn that same corner.  I’ve been there too, and finding “breathing room” can change everything.” –Carey Nieuwhof, Lead Pastor, Connexus Church

“While there may be no such thing as a stress-free life, the stress-dominated life has almost become the norm in our modern-day culture. In his new book Breathing Room, Josh Reich exposes the most common sources of crippling stress and lays out a game plan for conquering the beast that so easily robs our joy and sabotages our walk with Jesus.” –Larry Osborne, author and pastor, North Coast Church

“Josh Reich’s book Breathing Room is truly a breathe of fresh air.  You will appreciate Josh’s authenticity and vulnerability as he shares his personal journey to try to find breathing room in his own life.  This is the kind of book that is hard to pick up because you know you are going to be challenged to make life-altering changes, but it will be hard to put down because you know those changes are going to lead you to discovering the abundant life that Jesus desires for all of us.” Brian Bloye, senior pastor, West Ridge Church, co-author, It’s Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting

“In Breathing Room, Josh Reich opens up with us about his journey of recovery from addiction and compulsions that kept him from living the abundant life that Jesus has in mind for us. All of us can identify with his struggles. Hopefully some of us can also learn from his many practical suggestions and insights.” -Reggie McNeal, author, A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual LeadersMissional Leadership Specialist, Leadership Network

“Ministry is hard work. It’s spiritually draining, emotionally taxing, and intellectually exhausting. Josh opens his heart and shares the pain most leaders carry but reveal to no one. It becomes the secret burden we endure until something breaks. Breathing Room will reveal the warning signs that we’re headed towards a crash, but gives us hope that healthy living is possible for those of us in church work.” –Bob Franquiz, Senior Pastor, Calvary Fellowship, Miramar, FL; Founder, Church Ninja

“Josh Reich is a man of influence, integrity, and a leader of leaders. I have walked along side Josh and personally watched him live out what he preaches. I commend to you Breathing Room and encourage you to learn from Josh’s wise words.” -Brian Howard, Acts 29 West Network Director, Executive Director of Context Coaching Inc.

What does it Mean that ‘God Makes us New?’

new

Living with a new heart, new life and new status can be incredibly difficult. I often say that we don’t realize how much freedom we have in Jesus. The reason? We are so used to slavery, what is old and what we know. We know how to live when we care deeply about what other people think, when we let other people define us, when we let our guilt, shame and regret define us. We know those things. They are familiar.

Yet, we long for new. We long for what we are promised in Jesus: freedom, life.

We do nothing to earn this grace. It is given freely by God the Father so that we can be rescued from His wrath. What is amazing is that in Romans 5 we are told that while we were still sinners, before we knew our need for God, for grace, for the cross, Christ died for us.

So what does it look like to live in this new life, this new heart, this new status?

1. Remember what you were saved from. This is what communion reminds us of. In communion we pause and think about not only how broken we were but also what we were rescued from. Maybe a good image to think of is the road that your life was on and where that road was leading. And I’m not talking about hell versus heaven. In real practical terms, what did God rescue you from?

2. Practice confession. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. This verse often gets quoted to people who don’t know Jesus, but 1 John was written to Christians. This means we need to continually confess our sins. Not to be made right with God, because that was accomplished on the cross, but to make sure there is nothing in our hearts that hinders our relationship with God. Confession is not telling God something new. He already knows what wars for our hearts and the brokenness we can fall into. Confession is to remind us of what wars for our hearts and what we need to fight in order to live in the new life of Christ.

3. Remember you didn’t deserve it. It is easy to think we were worth saving because of who we are or what we do, but we aren’t. We didn’t deserve it. God didn’t need to rescue us, yet He did. John Piper said, “God did not spare His Son because it was the only way He could spare us.” If you deserved it, it wouldn’t be grace.

4. Know that Christ’s death is your hope for life. We often focus strictly on eternal life whenever we talk about the life we have in Jesus, but that life starts now. Living in freedom now, bringing God’s kingdom to earth through your life in the power of the Holy Spirit today. When you are tempted to sin, to fly off the handle, to control your life, to let other people define you, remember you were bought and rescued. Your freedom has been granted. That memory, that thought, that mistake, that generational sin passed down, in Christ that isn’t who you are anymore. That, “I’m just the man that ____.”; or “I’m just the woman that _____.” In Christ, that isn’t who you are anymore.