A few days ago my pastor gave me a copy of Is God-Anti Gay?by Sam Allberry. It’s a little book that tackles a big issue. Homosexuality is big issue both in our culture and in the church. It’s not only a big issue, but a complex issue. In this book, Allberry tackles this big and complex issue of homosexuality with a good balance between grace and truth.
Allberry tells a little bit of his story in the introduction of the book. I appreciated his authenticity as he shared his own personal struggles with homosexuality and same-sex attraction. Not only that, but he shares how he met Jesus and how the Gospel has transformed his life. By sharing some of his story in the introduction, he gains (or at least he should) instant credibility on this subject. He speaks from the stand point of a person who loves Jesus, the Bible, and the church, but also has a real struggle with this issue.
From that point forward, Allberry covers a lot of ground in this little book on the issue of homosexuality. He spends a chapter (chapter 1) laying the Biblical foundation for marriage and sex. Then from chapters 2-5 he dives into homosexuality in regards to the Bible, the Christian, the church, and the world. Within those chapters, Allberry tackles many tough Scripture passages and questions that often come up when talking about homsexuality. To each of them, he answers with a faithfulness to God’s Word, but also with commitment to the grace that comes through Jesus. I would love to share more about what Allberry says in the book, but I’d rather you grab a copy for yourself and read it. It’s worth it!
Two things I really liked about this book was Allberry’s Gospel-centeredness and his practicality. Throughout the book, Allberry makes a point to not make homosexuality a sin that is “worse” than other sins. He doesn’t put homosexuality on it’s own shelve. He treats homosexuality the way it should be treated-sin that stems from our brokenness and separation from God. He says, “Homosexual sin is not unique…Homosexual sin is incredibly serious, but it is not alone in being so. It is wicked, but so is greed. God will judge those who indulge in it. But He will also judge thieves” (page 36). He makes a point to always go back to the Gospel being our only hope and that the Gospel is the answer to all sin. He doesn’t make homosexuality into an issue that needs to be treated different, but a sin that separates us from God and our only hope in having that fixed is through the Gospel. Too many times we don’t treat homosexuality the same as other sins and we forget the answer to homosexuality is the Gospel. I’m glad Allberry doesn’t do that in this book. I also really like how practical this book was. Throughout the book, Allberry gives practical advice on what to do if you are a Christian and you struggle with same-sex attraction. He also gives practical advice on how the church can respond to homosexuality and how we can minister to friends and people we may come into contact with you struggle with homosexuality.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who may be struggling with homosexuality or just wants to learn more about what God says about this subject.
Leaders are readers. As leaders, we hear and know that phrase well. But reading takes time and discipline that sometimes we just don’t have enough of. We have a list of books we want to read, but our schedules are so packed we don’t know when we will ever have time read them. For some of us, we just struggle with the discipline of sitting down long enough to read a few pages of a book much less an entire book. But if leaders want to be better leaders than they need to be readers. I want to share a few tips on how you as a leader, or as someone who may just wants to read, can read more books.
Make an effort to read at least 30 minutes a day. In college I had a friend who would read books left and right on top of his required reading for classes. At the time, I was struggling just to keep up with what I had to read for classes and the thought of reading books outside of that seemed impossible. One day he told me how he did it. He said he simply makes himself sit down for 30 minutes a day and read. Sometime he may go over that, but he would make himself read for at least 30 minutes. It sounded simple enough so I gave it a shot. To my surprise it worked! So much so, I still use this principle today. I have a sticky note on the wall near my desk in my office that says “30 min a day” to remind me. Leaders are usually very busy people, but reading 30 minutes a day is manageable and not hard to do. Give it a shot! You will be surprised at how many books you can work through if you read at least 30 minutes a day.
Understand the different ways you can read. There are many ways you can read. I recently have started trying to understand more about this and the different ways to read. What helped me was a recent article I ran across on Tim Challies site entitled “7 Different Ways to Read a Book.” I have learned the value in not reading every book the same. Based on the book and why you may be reading it, you may have to change up the way you read it. I would encourage you to look over the seven different ways you can read a book from the Challies article and apply that to your reading.
Always have a book with you. This is another tip I picked up in college, but this one came from one of my professors. He was teaching a class on Acts and part of the required reading he assigned was a commentary on the book of Acts. You normally don’t sit down with a commentary and read it cover to cover. But for this class we were required to do just that. The commentary he had us read was a pretty technical commentary so it was a pretty heavy thing to read through. He knew it was not an easy assignment and it would take a long time. Right after he told us about this assignment during the first class he said the key to reading a lot is to always have a book with you. He told us how he would always be carrying a book with him so even if he had a 5 minute window of time he could read. I applied that and finished that commentary quicker than I thought I would have. I still do this as well today. It’s a simple thing many people often don’t think about. Carry a book with you and pull it out when you have a few minutes here and there.
Reading is an essential part of growing as a leader. However, reading takes time and discipline. I have found that making time to read each day for at least 30 minutes, understanding different ways to read, and always having a book with me has helped me not only become a better reader, but has helped me read more books.
Overwhelmed by Perry Noble. This is the first Perry Noble book I have ever read. I really enjoy listening to him preach and reading/listening to his thoughts on leadership so I was excited to dive into one of his books. The overall theme of this book is pretty straight forward-we all face overwhelming circumstances that cause stress and anxiety, but through Jesus we can have victory. Throughout the book Noble uses the story of Daniel to illustrate how God can work in our overwhelming circumstances. One of the things I really appreciated about this book was Noble’s transparency and honesty as he shared about his story of depression and anxiety. As someone who struggles with worry and stress very often, this book helped me a lot and I would recommend it to anyone who feels overwhelmed (which is basically all of us). I plan to read Noble’s other book Unleashed soon.
Criticism Bites by Brian Berry. About two years ago I read Brian’s book As For Me and My Crazy House and loved it (click here to read my review). So when I saw Criticism Bites at SYMC this past year I knew I had to grab a copy and read it. Criticism Bites is a book about dealing with criticism. It’s written with youth pastors in mind so most of the illustrations and ideas are geared towards those in youth ministry. However, the book is still very applicable to those not in youth ministry. Berry dives into why criticism hurts us so bad and how we can effectively handle it when it comes our way. Youth ministry is a ministry that seems to attract criticism. You have parents, students, and other adults in the church who all have an opinion on how the youth ministry should be ran. Many times those opinions are very different than yours and usually are masked in criticism. Youth pastors need to know how to handle and respond to criticism. In this book, Berry does an excellent job at explaining how you can do that. I’d recommend this book to youth pastors and anyone who ever finds themselves on the receiving end of criticism.
A Youth Ministry Volunteer Speaks His Mind by Rick Williams.I picked this book up a few years ago, but have always left it on my shelve. It may be because the title scares me. I want to think I am pretty good at leading a team of youth ministry volunteers. I want to think I have it all figured out and that my volunteers think I am the greatest youth pastor on the face of this earth. But that’s not always true. I have a lot to learn when it comes to leading a team of volunteers and one of the best ways to learn is to listen to them. Ask them how I am doing and what I could do differently. What I loved about this little book is that it was like sitting down at a table with one of my volunteers and asking them to be brutally honest with me. At times, it made me mad and at other times it made me feel very encouraged. In this book, Rick Williams, a youth ministry volunteer since 1981, tells youth pastors what their volunteers are really thinking. I picked up a ton of practical things from this book on leading better meetings, recruiting volunteers, communicating to volunteers, and more. I’d recommend every youth pastor pick up a copy of this book and read it so they can better lead their volunteer team.
Most student ministries have some element of musical worship in their program. It may be an adult leading worship with their acoustic guitar or a group of students in a band leading their peers. However you do it in your student ministry, the fact remains that we need to strive to pick good songs. Don’t just sing every new worship song that comes out in an effort to be trendy (by the way, most of our students don’t listen to worship music outside of church so singing the latest and greatest worship hit is not that big of deal to them). However, we need to be intentional and pick songs that effectively help our students connect with Jesus through music. How do we pick songs that do that? Let me suggest three things that should guide us when we are picking worship songs for our student ministry.
Theologically Sound and Rich. Music teaches. Even if we don’t realize it or not, the words we sing during worship are shaping our view of God. Music has a powerful way of pushing truths deep down into our hearts. This is a great thing, but when we sing songs that are not Biblically accurate than we are in trouble. It’s important to make sure the songs we pick for our students to sing are theologically sound. That they line up with what Scripture teaches about God. Don’t settle for singing songs that have poor theology. Pick songs that teach our students accurate theological truths about God. An important thing to mention in regards to this is the importance of Gospel-centered worship music. Everything we do should be Gospel-centered, but we need to pick songs that focus on what God has done for us through Jesus. Too many worship songs make us (the singer) the center when in reality Jesus (the Savior) should be the center. In their book The Deliberate Church, Mark Dever and Paul Alexander sums up this point very well: “We want to sing songs that raise our view of God, that present Him in all His glory and grace. We want to sing songs that put the details of Christ’s person and work front and center. We want to sing theologically textured songs that make us think about the depths of God’s character, the contours of His grace, and the implications of His Gospel; that teach us about the Biblical doctrine that saves and transforms” (page 118).
Easy to Sing. Getting teenagers to sing is not easy. Especially when they are in a room full of their peers and they desperately want to look cool and not do anything stupid. But some students do sing and one of the most exciting things in student ministry to see is students who abandon the idea of what their peers think and they worship God freely. No matter how foolish they may look or how bad they may actually song, they are singing out in worship to their Savior. That is awesome! However, sometimes I believe students are not singing because the songs we pick are just not easy to sing. We need to make sure we pick songs that are easy for our students to sing. It may be a good song, but if it’s hard for the average student to sing than it may not be worth doing. We want to make it easy for our students to sing and connect with Jesus.
Balance between student ministry songs and the songs the church does on weekends. Let me explain what I mean here. I think it is healthy to sing some of the songs your church may sing during weekend worship in your student ministry as well. At the same time, I think your student ministry needs to do songs that your church may not do during weekend services. For example, our student ministry does a lot of songs from the band Citizens. The style and feel of their songs fit well with our students. However, Citizens may not fit well during our weekend worship service. The style is a little different from what our worship band normally plays on Sundays. However, many of the songs the band does on Sundays we do in our student ministry as well. The whole idea is to create a balance so students don’t feel like it’s the student ministry worship vs. the weekend adult worship. We are one local body of believers and the student ministry is part of the larger local church. It’s finding unity, but also creating different environments for the different groups.
Those are just a few thoughts on picking worship songs for your student ministry. I love watching my students worship Jesus through music and it’s a privilege to partner with my student ministry worship leader to pick songs that help our students do just that. When you go about picking songs, make sure they are theologically rich, easy to sing, and there is a balance between your student ministry and the weekend worship.
I enjoy reading and writing reviews of what I have read here on my site. However, I do not always review every book I read. Some books I simply read and put them on the shelve. But in an effort to review and recommend more books here on my site I will be posting “mini-reviews” from time to time of recent books I have read. So today I want to share some quick reviews of three books I have recently finished.
Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick.Crash the Chatterbox was a good read. I read a chapter a day during my devotional time and learned a lot about how Satan and his lies can cause me to loose focus on my Savior and His promises. Furtick is one of my favorite preachers to listen to and I have enjoyed reading his books. In this book Furtick considers some of the “chatter” Christians hear in their heads from Satan that often times trips them up and causes them to fail. He gives Biblical principles in how to overcome the “chatter” and reminds readers of the promises of God. This was a really easy read that I would recommend to anyone that is looking for a book to help them in their spiritual growth. Overcoming the lies of the enemy is important if we want to believe and live out the promises of God for our lives.
Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples by Duffy Robbins. When it comes to youth ministry, I love reading and learning from Duffy Robbins. This guys has been around for a long time and is full of youth ministry related wisdom. It’s evident from his books (and when you hear him speak) that he loves Jesus and teenagers. He is also passionate about helping youth pastors follow the Great Commission in making disciples, which is what this book if all about. In this book, Robbins shares how you can build an effective youth ministry that builds teenage disciples. This by far was one of the best youth ministry books I have ever read. It was practical, but very theologically sound. Robbins doesn’t just share how to attract teenagers, but how to pour into them and help them become fully-devoted disciples of Jesus. I really enjoyed chapters 2 and 3. In chapter 2 Robbins talks about how youth ministry is more about the youth pastors relationship with Jesus than anything else. Then in chapter 3 Robbins talks about how youth ministry must be incarnational. With Jesus ministry as the blueprint, Robbins helps youth workers see the important of being with teenagers and how healthy relationships with teenagers make for great ministry. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone in youth ministry both full-time or as a volunteer.
Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger. We need Gospel-centered local churches. Not many pastors (or Christians for that matter) would disagree with this statement. But what does a Gospel-centered local church look like? How does a Gospel-centered church operate? Those are the kinds of questions this book addresses. The local church is all about Jesus. He built it, runs it, and owns it. The Gospel, the good news of what God did through Jesus, is what should drive the church. The Gospel, the person of Jesus, should be at the center of it all. The first few chapters (chapters 1-5) unpacks this truth while the last section (chapters 6-12) get more practical in dealing with how the Gospel impacts everything from church leadership, ministry, preaching, and contextualization. I really enjoyed chapter 8 and what the writers had to say about children and student ministry. As well as chapter 9 and the discussion on what is Biblical, Jesus-centered leadership. I’d recommend this book for anyone who is in church leadership and is passionate about building a Gospel-centered church.