Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How a Weird Subject Line Encourages People

If you get an email from someone that just says “Bzzzzzzzz!” in the subject line, and nothing else, it’s because they’re praying for you.  This quick shorthand way to communicating “Hey, I’m praying for you!” is spreading rapidly around the world. 

Someone suggested I explain the history of Bzzzzzzzz! messages and promote the idea further.

Go here for all the details:


I'll be curious to see your responses in the comments!

Surfacing Their Needs

I like Peter Mead's advice to preachers about surfacing the needs of listeners, then working from that to the rest of the sermon.

"So I suggest we don’t start disconnected (“ok, enough irrelevant humor, let’s have a reading” or even “last week we were in Lamentations 3, please turn to Lamentations 4.”) Nor should we start with “felt needs” (“alright, you’re all asking me on facebook how to make life more comfortable and still be able to afford entertainment during the economic downturn, let’s turn to Judges chapter . . .”) I strongly suggest trying to start by “surfacing the need” addressed by the text. In your study it begins with the text. Then in your message you start by highlighting the need in the listeners life so they are thirsty for the passage and the message."
The same principles are important in any Bible teaching situation.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is An Evangelical Collapse Imminent?

I'm delighted that Michael Spenser published his 3 part blog series on "The Coming Evangelical Collapse." I believe much of his diagnosis is correct, and I appreciate his authentic sharing of concerns. His willingness to frankly share his observations and thinking has provoked an excellent discussion in the blogosphere about what matters, and this is always a healthy process.

Several of you asked me to articulate my views. I started to sketch out my thoughts, and then came across Melinda's wonderful post on Stand to Reason.

She says everything that I wanted to say about it.

God's Church will stand. Seasons and movements of the Spirit change over time, but always forward in God's great sovereign purpose. The world at large may add labels and misintepret what is going on.

John Calvin -- Missions and Church Planting

Mark Driscoll gives a nice introduction to John Calvin's sustained efforts to train and launch missionaries, and sponsor church planting in the mid-1500's.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why Do We Need to Learn Faster?

This popular video is studded with facts about the exponentially fast technological changes we're living in.

Our fundamental problems are spiritual, not technical, political, or economic. But in order to continue to be effective, we need to keep learning faster.

Characteristics of a Good Sunday School Teacher

Our friends at the excellent Sunday School Revolutionary site have posted a 3-part article on the Characteristics of a Good Sunday School Teacher. Recommended!

I encourage you to review these characteristics, give yourself a rating, and prayerfully look for areas where you could improve in the next 2 months.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Keys to Accelerated Learning" Now Available

Thanks for your patience while I got everything ready to deliver!

The "Keys to Accelerated Learning" course is ready foryou.


I'm confident this coaching will truly transform your ability to learn faster, better, and retain more, with even less stress.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Great Books list

After my recent post discussing my reading habits, a number of you asked me for a reading list.

I don't recommend every book I've read to others. And I read widely, across a number of disciplines. But I thought it was worth the time to list out 75 explicitly Christian books which have greatly influenced me.

These are the books that I return to, gladly, again and again, knowing that I can learn still more from them. The authors have been used by God to help disciple me.

I'll be interested to hear your comments and feedback.

Gauging When to Trim Conversation

A number of the classes I teach are large, sometimes 100+ people. I often use the strategy of a rhythm of teaching a little, then asking them to work on a question or issue as small groups for 3-4 minutes, then coming back together as a large group to talk it through. Then repeat.

There are a couple of keys which help this process work better:

1. Have a handout with the relevent Scriptures and the question you want them to work on together. This makes it easier for people to be "on the same page."

2. Use good questions that open up discussion in the group. I prefer "window" questions rather than "pin" questions which have one right, definite answer, in these settings.

The other helpful practice is to gauge when to cut off conversation. You can look for cues that people are done talking in their group, for example, or are now talking about something else.

My counsel is to call the groups together again before they're all out of discussion. Leave 'em hungry for more, instead of burned out and bored with one another.

In this model you can only teach a few key things that you want them to get. So teach less, but teach it very well. Really hone in on your questions.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Question

I’m sure my friend and mentor didn’t understand the explosive power of the bomb he dropped on me.

His simple question transformed the way I have thought about sin, temptation, and the Christian life.

I met weekly with my friend for encouragement and mutual accountability in agreed-upon areas of weakness. For three weeks running I had to confess failings in one particular area. “I hate that I’m saying it,” I said quietly, “but… I did it again.”

“Here comes the lecture,” I thought, knowing I deserved it.

My friend paused, then asked me this simple, profound, and powerful question:

“That’s not consistent with Christ in you, is it?”

In that moment God catalyzed something wonderful in my mind. Following Jesus is not about making my heart and mind better through external “righteousness.” Following Jesus means my thinking, acting, and living should flow out of the glorious reality that I am a new creature in Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The reality of this new creation is the primary source of all wisdom, godliness, and righteous living (see Galatians 6:15).

Use this question to help frame your decisions. When you’re faced with a choice, you can ask “Lord, what’s most consistent with Christ in me?”

Use this question to resist besetting sins. When you are tempted, it helps enormously to ask “Is this consistent with Christ in me?”

Use this question when you are fearful, or weak, to remind yourself of the character of Christ in you. “Is this consistent with Christ in me?”

Let us be grateful people, confident in “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Answering Questions about Learning Faster

I've gotten some interesting email about my messages
challenging teachers, pastors, and church leaders to be
better learners.

Let me address some of the questions and statements that
might be of more general interest.

"I have a master's degree from seminary and read a lot.
I'm sure some people on your mailing list could use your
help, but I don't." -- Pastor A.W.

Great learners are simply people who know they have a lot
more to learn, and remain excited about learning.  If you
don't think I could help you learn faster and better (with
less stress, too), then you're exactly right.  If your mind
is closed to improvement, I won't be able to teach you, any
more than Jesus could open the minds of some of the
Pharisees.  May our Lord bless your pastoral ministry.

"Can you help me?  I have trouble reading the newspaper
sometimes.  I want to be better, so I can be a better
teacher."  -- B.P.

The Lord will, I'm sure, bless your ministry in His Name.
I do believe that everyone can see improvements in their
ability to learn and retain useful information for teaching
and pastoral ministry work.

You see, it's not important whether you can read 100 books
in a year.  It is important that you get better by learning
to learn faster. If you read 2 or 3 books a year, you can
readily push yourself to read 5 to 10 books (with less
stress, I might add!) and retain the information better.

"Is this just about memorization?  I use the Navigator's
method and it works for me." -- S.W.

I actually won't cover memorization explicitly in this
coaching. Enormous feats of memorization are possible (and
indeed have been routine -- young Jewish boys memorized the
Torah).  What I'll explain doesn't depend upon memorization
to be successful.

"Does this require special software?  I don't have a fancy
computer or any money to buy tools." -- W.A.

A lot of what I'll show you can be done without any special
tools at all.  (Our ancestors had less than you do!)  I will
tell you about optional software tools that can help, and
nearly all of them are free.

"I'd like to read more, but I don't have time."  -- J.J.

If you practice a little bit of what I'll show you, you can
read 2 to 4 times faster. And retain more.  I'm completely
serious.  Over the remaining years the Lord gives you,
wouldn't you like to be able to read more, remember it
better, and retain the valuable parts longer?  This will be
a huge benefit you'll enjoy with just a little bit of effort
on your part.

"Speed reading courses don't work for me."  -- A.S.

I'm cynical about speed-reading courses myself.  I read an
ad for one course and realized that if their claims were
true, I could read "Gone with the Wind" in 26 minutes.

What I'm going to be teaching you is a lot more than speed
reading.  It's about *learning* -- which is not just
reading, listening, or watching, but understanding the
material and making connections in your mind.  Faster
reading is possible and desirable, but it's an incomplete
picture of what you need.

"Are you suggesting that the way I learned to study was
wrong?  I went good schools." -- D.F.

My observation is that very few adults, even those who have
been to good schools, learned how to learn.  They rarely
were encouraged to figure out their personal strengths and
leverage them to the fullest.  And far too few people were
encouraged to remain curious throughout their who lives.

I'm less interested in criticizing schools or teachers --
and more interested in helping everyone become a superior
learner.  Wherever you are now with your learning skills,
I'm confident you can be much better.

"I prefer to listen to audios and watch videos instead of
reading.  Will your approach help me, or is it only about
reading?" -- U.G.

Most of what I will cover applies to any medium -- reading
text, listening to audios, or watching videos.

"Where did you learn what you're going to teach in this
course?" -- A.S.

I've been working on improving my learning skills since I
was in high school.  I've searched out many people who
clearly were effective learners and tapped into their ideas
about what helps them.  I've studied the neurobiology of the
learning process, as little as we understand it, and read
through many reports of psychological experiments on
comprehension and retention of information.  Plus I've
tried many personal experiments to practice and adapt and
improve myself.  It's an ongoing process for me.

Until now I have shared my learning with only a handful of
people who have asked for help.  Recently it's become plain
to me that the information could help many, many people in
the church.

"I read the Bible and nothing else.  Why would I?" -- C.K.

I don't advocate reading other information instead of the
Bible, and I certainly think we should generally be
investing more time with the Word of God than less.  But we
belong to the historic community of believers through the
centuries now, and can learn a lot from the writings of
those who have gone before us.  And we should also be
students of the best of the world around us, in order to
develop our skills and understanding, and be able to reach
that world effectively with the Gospel.  I fervently
believe that all truth is God's truth, and worth studying.
We develop discernment and wisdom as we learn.

So I do think you as a teacher should study and learn from
more information sources than the Bible, and evaluate
everything through the power of the HolySpirit. The
challenge then becomes how to learn effectively and
efficiently from the astounding amount of information
available to us!

Did I cover your concern area?  If I didn't, let me know in the comments.

The "Keys to Accelerated Learning" materials is almost
ready.  Watch for an announcement soon!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Learning to Learn Faster -- Overview Lesson Available Now

I wrote the other day about my concerns that teachers, pastors, and church leaders aren't learning fast enough or well enough. If the people working in the Kingdom of God aren't the best learners, we'll fall far short of our God-given potential.

People routinely far underestimate what they are capable of learning. If you learned 7 facts per second, 24 hours a day, you could go over 200 years before you would run out of neurons to store the information. Our Lord has made you with a practically infinite capability to learn.

You and I will tap only a fraction of our potential, but we should become much better learners than we are today. We should always be striving to improve our capabilities, because the needs of the Kingdom demand us to be our best -- and better every year.

Here's what I'm going to make available soon: Audio lessons coaching you -- yes YOU -- to learn faster, better, and retain what you need from it all. I'm confident that the practical advice will give you an enormous edge.

You'll learn:

* What learning *really* is
* The key elements of your learning mindset
* Practical counsel on all the elements of the learning process: preparation, input, thinking, and review
* Specific tactics to help you read and listen 200-400% faster than you do today. (No typo there -- 2x to 4x faster.)
* My recommended "tool" list

If this interests you, then please sign up here to learn more. (I don't want to burden anyone who isn't particularly interested!)


When you sign up, you'll get a 15 minute overview lesson that covers all the key ideas at a high level.

The full course materials will have a lot more detail and practical helps, but my hope is that you'll be able to start putting some of these ideas into practice right away.

I'm praying that God will raise up a more effective generation of teachers, pastors, and church leaders, by sharpening their ability to learn.

Again, sign up to get started learn faster:


Let the Gospel Grow In Your Life

John Piper exhorts us to never let the Gospel get smaller in our lives. Short, helpful.

Faith by Hearing

I tend to favor reading over listening, but there are tremendously good sermons and talks and podcasts available. I love the tagline on the Faith By Hearing blog: "Seize Your Commute." This is an outstanding starting point if you'd like to load up your ipod or car with great material to bless you and your family.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Follow Me on Twitter

I'm inviting you to follow me on Twitter.

I don't have a wall on Facebook or a MySpace page, and I routinely reject the three invitations I get each week to join the "latest" social networking site. I endure comments from "youngsters" that if I don't Facebook, I don't exist.

But I'm committed to providing regular Twitter updates in addition to the blogs I manage. You'll get to see more about what I'm doing and learning about. It's a free service, too.

Go here if you'd like to follow me on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/Glenn_Brooke

Monday, March 16, 2009

You've Got a Lot of Synapses to Work With

I love reading about our brains and how our minds work.  Our brain is a whole lot more than "3.5 pounds of blood-soaked sponge," as Vonnegut opined.   Mark Batterson helps us understand the astounding number of sensors and synapses we have.  

Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Learning Faster -- the Great Need

A significant challenge for Bible teachers and church leaders today is keeping up with what's going on.

Of course, just keeping up today isn't good enough.

In addition to regular, deep time in the Word of God, teachers, pastors, and leaders need to be students of life. 

I believe one of the reasons why the Church is not leading the way today as it could and should is that the leaders are poor learners. 

If you study who takes the lead in the culture, in businesses, in civic organizations, and even in governments, there is a strong correlation with the people who are the fastest and best learners. 

Now I strongly believe that Christians should be the best learners and thinkers on the planet -- we have the Mind of Christ!  But it is often not so. 

My own reputation is that I'm a terrific learner. In addition to my full-time job (not in a church), family and church leadership responsibilities, and running Brooke Associates, I'm constantly in learning mode.

For example, I will read through the whole Bible 4 times this year, as I did last year.  I read 131 books last year and plan to finish over 110 this year.  I'm consistently reading sixteen magazines and trade publications, plus following the text, audio, and video content on 72 blogs.  My friends, fellow church leaders, and students will tell you that I can remember a huge amount.  "Being around you, Glenn, is like sipping from a fire hose of knowledge and insight," says one. 

Am I superman, or the bionic man?  No.  Do I sleep and exercise and eat?  Yes.  Do I have some super-high IQ that lets me do this?  I'm a reasonably smart guy, but know plenty of people much smarter than me.  Are these extraordinary, superhuman accomplishments?  Absolutely not!  They are well within the range of most adults.  

What sets great teachers, pastors, and leaders apart on the learning scale is
* they know what they need to learn, and why
* they understand what learning really is, and have mastered the practices of learning
* they apply what they learn (because the point of learning is not knowing, it's doing)

In a few days I'll write again about this issue, because I think it's extremely important.  

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ministry Goals

I liked this list of ministry goals from Derek Prime and Alistair Begg, in their book Being a Pastor:

1. Feed the flock - John 21:15-17
2. Proclaim the whole will of God - Acts 20:27
3. Present everyone perfect in Christ - Colossians 1:28-29
4. Prepare God’s people for works of service - Ephesians 4:12
5. Equip God’s people to be fisher’s of men - 2 Timothy 4:5
6. Keep watch over oneself until the task is complete - 1 Timothy 4:16

HT: Peter Mead

Friday, March 13, 2009

How Prayer Changed New York

I have a good friend who lived in New York city years back, and so I sent him this interesting analysis of the changes in the city.

I really enjoyed his response:


Glenn,Thanks for the article. I lived in NYC in the late 80s and early 90s. He is right; it was a very bad place. Crack vials piled up along gutters like leaves in autumn. My neighborhood had the highest homicide rate in the city; it was a fearful place. Olasky left out what I believe is the single biggest reason that NYC changed...prayer. In 1989, the city had Calvary Baptist (anchor of evangelicals) and Gordon MacDonald and Tim Keller. Those churches began praying for the city. [My wife and I] would get up early on Friday morning and travel to mid-town to a small prayer meeting of leaders at Redeemer where we experienced the most delicious group prayer times that I have ever had. We prayed for the usual Aunt with a bad hip and friend with a dying dog, but mostly we prayed that God's kingdom would be realized in the city; we affirmed that God loved NYC and wanted to change it; we implored Him to do so. We prayed for social justice and for individual hearts; we prayed for revival in the Jonathan Edwards sense of word. We didn't pray for church programs; we prayed for the chaotic outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As Harvey Conn says, "prayer is rebellion against the status quo" that is what we did.

This helps get me fired up to pray for revival in my area!

To Whom Has God “Chained” You?

You probably know that Paul wrote a number of New Testament epistles to the churches while he was imprisoned in Rome. You may not know that he was chained to a rotating schedule of Roman soldiers, day and night, the entire time.

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:3-6)

Imagine what it was like to be one of the Roman soldiers chained to Paul. Each man would have seen Paul visit with others, encouraging and challenging them. These soldiers were present while Paul prayed and interceded for the new Christian churches, and watched him write out the letters to the Galatians, Philippians, Ephesians, and Colossians. Each one would have heard the story of Jesus Christ, crucified as a their sins, raised from the dead, and Lord of Lords.

They didn’t have any choice but to hear and see, because they were chained to God’s man for hours every day. That’s why Paul asked the Colossians and Ephesians to pray for him, so that he would proclaim the Gospel clearly.

We can only speculate how God may have used this influence on these guards for good, through many generations. How many were gloriously converted? How many family members and fellow soldiers heard about Jesus this way – and about living an abundant life of love in the Holy Spirit?

I’m looking forward to hearing more of these stories when we get to heaven.

But what about your situation? Are there people who are chained to you?

Oh, I don’t mean chains of iron. I’m talking about forced relationships that you didn’t happily “volunteer” for. (I doubt Paul volunteered to be a prisoner in Rome for years.) Perhaps you have neighbors, co-workers, even extended family relationships that strain you. You don’t naturally gravitate to these people because you want to spend more time with them, but God in His sovereignty has set up the arrangement so you must be with them.

Now you can fight and resist and be resentful (though it won’t help.) Or you can recognize that God has arranged circumstances so that they come into His sphere of influence through you! You are His ambassador in “chains,” my friend!

Let us follow Paul’s example and pray that we will be good ambassadors for Jesus, especially in these situations:

“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19-20)

In God’s grace, we look forward to future days when we see how God has used us to influence many, many people – even those He had to chain to us to arrange for the Gospel to go forward.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Starved for the Glory of God

Observation: we are serving people who are starved for the glory of God. "Feed my sheep," Jesus commanded Peter.

Let this image help you become a more effective teacher.

Two Quotes About Opinions

"Opinions are like rear ends -- everyone has one and MOST of them are incredibly large and stinky." -- Perry Noble

"You have a belly button, so you're entitled to your opinion. That's about all you're entitled to."
-- my grandfather 'Mac' MacWilliams

This Bifocaled Teacher Likes This Idea

A teaching friend has switched to a large print Bible when he is teaching. It's bigger to hold, but he says he doesn't lose his place nearly as often when he is reading.

Since I know he uses different colors of highlighters to mark up his Bible, I teased him that he'll spend more in highlighters now. Takes more ink to color the larger print!

Seriously, if you have poorer eyesight, or teach regularly in dim lighting conditions, you might consider a large-print Bible.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Become a Better Story Teller

Ira Glass gives some excellent tips about story telling in these four short videos -- which is critically important for good Bible teaching.

He covers the building blocks of stories, how to find interesting stories, and common pitfalls in sharing stories.

Highly recommended!

Of course we are part of the greatest story in the history of the world! See why I believe it's necessary and possible to teach as Jesus did, using questions, story, and dialogue.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reading Leviticus Is Like...

Being an Iowa resident for almost 16 years now, I got a nice chuckle from Mark Batterson's comparison of reading Leviticus like driving across Iowa.

I'm referring you there not for the humor, but for the suggestions on how to study and teach Leviticus. Be sure you check the comments, there are some good leads there.

(I also agree with Pastor Batterson: I haven't met an Iowan I didn't like.)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Renew Your Mind With Your Identity in Christ

Why do you keep telling me about my identity in Christ? I get it!” That’s what the newly married man asked me, with more than a little irritation. “I need to learn how to love Karen* better, and you keep trying to tell me about who I am in Jesus.”

There is a consistent pattern in the Bible. First, we’re told who God is. Then we’re told who we are. And only then are we given instruction in how to live.

For example, the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 begin with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” He is the Lord who rescued the people from slavery – and they are his people, no longer slaves.

This pattern is strongly evident in Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Galatians, and Philippians. The first third to half the letters are theology – describing the character of God, and we as new creations in Christ – before giving practical instructions in how to live with one another, and as ambassadors of Jesus in the world.

Study the patterns of human behavior: our perception of the world and events, our responses, and our corresponding successes and failures directly flow from our self-image. By our self-image I mean, our deep understanding of whom we are (and Whose we are).

You can diagram it this way:

Please notice that it is a feedback loop. The wrong kind of self-image – from thinking incorrectly about ourselves – not only limits our successes but reinforces the cycle. We dare not succumb to the world’s idea of a replacement trinity (My Thoughts, My Needs, My Feelings), but stay connected in Christ to the exalted glorious Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, His disciple, you are in Him and He is in you. He has given you a new heart. You have been set free from slavery to sin! As we continue to renew our minds by thinking about whom God is and who He has made us, we set ourselves in a positive feedback loop. This is discipleship!

This newly married man will be able to love his new wife more deeply when he strengthens his understanding of who he is in Christ. (Please note: not who he will be someday, but who he is today, now!) Why? Because his perceptions of himself, his wife, and events will be interpreted correctly, and his responses will be more godly.

That’s why we need to remind one another, every day, of the reality of Christ in us, the hope of glory (ref).

Reviewing Romans 6:1-14 is a good place begin:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

*Not her real name

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Free: ESV Study Bible online, in March 2009

A real treat: the ESV Study Bible online version is completely free in March.

I urge you to take a look at this if you have not already. I've been enjoying the ESV Study Bible for several months.

You can see my video reviews of this terrific study Bible here and here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Model of Herod's Temple

A man in England has devoted an enormous amount of his life to creating an accurate 1:100 scale model of Herod's temple. There are 19 pictures of the model here,  which might be useful to include in lessons.

Remember that it helps your students to understand and apply if they can better visualize what the terrain or environment of the Biblical story is like.

Penn Is Given a Bible

This is an intriguing story from Penn (of magicians Penn and Teller fame). How does this athiest respond to the gift of a Bible from an audience member?