Pleasing People by Lou Priolo. I ran across this book back in college but never took the time to read it until recently. In this book Priolo addresses an issue the majority of us struggle with – the desire to please other people. The first half of the book is dedicated to helping the reader see why this is such a problem. What many will find in this section is that even people who say “I’m not a people-pleaser” usually are to some degree. Priolo does a great job at pointing out how we all struggle with this issue to some extent. The second half of the book deals with the solution to this problem which is to be a God-pleaser. This section, and throughout the entire book really, is a call for Christ followers to be driven by the desire to please God rather than man. This is a solid book I’d encourage every Christian to read at some point.
God Space by Doug Pollock. This is by far one of the best evangelism type books I have ever read. Pollock offers us an approach to sharing the Gospel that I believe is highly effective and needed in our culture today. In this book Pollock helps us see how conversations with people open the door for us to share the Gospel. His aim is for Christian to create what he calls “God space” through intentional, spiritual conversations. This book serves as a guide to having those types of conversations. It’s extremely practical and easy to follow. I was also encouraged by the amount of stories and illustrations Pollock used to show how this method works. This is a book that will reshape how you go about sharing the Gospel. I’d encourage every Christian to take a peak into this one as well.
Secret Power by D.L. Moody. I’ve never read a book by Moody until this one. I enjoy reading classic books written by men and women of God who have gone before us. Like most of those books, this one didn’t disappoint. Throughout this book Moody helps the reader see how the Holy Spirit works in and through the life of the believer and the church. It almost serves as a doctrinal book on the Holy Spirit but doesn’t just stay in the “theological” realm but spends a good bit of time in the practical realm as well. Moody points us to timeless truths about the Holy Spirit that where not just needed in his day but ours as well. Readers will everything from some characteristics of the Holy Spirit to how the Holy Spirit works in our witness for Christ.
Another book I read recently that I chose not to review was Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul. I am currently reading The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, Kingdom Come by Sam Storms, and The Skinny on Communication by Jeff White.
Recently my friend and co-worker Gary Durbin wrote a book titled More Than a Worship Leader. I had the privilege of reading this book and really enjoyed it. I’m excited to review it as well as recommend it to others.
Gary breaks this book down into three main parts: off stage, on stage, and up-staged. Gary’s desire to help worship leaders grow off and on stage is evident throughout this book. I found the off stage section to very insightful and challenging. Most books on a particular area of ministry focus more on skill rather than the person. In this section Gary helps the worship leader understand that who they are off stage is vitally important. However, what they do on stage is still important. That’s where the on stage section comes in. In this section Gary does an excellent job at helping worship leaders get better at what God has called them to do week in and week out as they lead God’s people. The last section, up-staged, is a humble reminder that it’s not all about us and that’s ok. All three of these sections challenge worship leaders to do more than just get up and sing a few songs on Sunday. Leading worship is a high calling from God that should be cultivated and taken seriously.
In addition to my comments above, let me share with you a few things I really liked about this book. First, this is a book for both rookie worship leaders as well as veteran worship leaders. No matter where you are as a worship leader there is something for you in this book. It’s been encouraging to see our student worship band going through this book together. It’s huge for rookie worship leaders but shouldn’t be overlooked by those that have been in the game for a good while. Second, this is a book not just for worship leaders. Even though the focus of this book is leading worship in the context of the local church there are things found within it that is helpful for people in other areas of ministry. I’m involved in student ministry and I walked away with a ton of great and challenging insights from this book. It’s also very helpful for those in ministry that have worship leaders serving on their team like lead pastors or student pastors with volunteers or students leading worship. I’d encourage others in ministry to not look past this book just because you’r not leading worship. Third, this book is written by someone who loves Jesus, the church, and worship leaders. I don’t just say this because I work with Gary and have the privilege of being his friend. This book is written from the perspective of someone who has served in the local church for quite some time and has gained a lot of experience in the area of worship. His heart and love for Jesus, the church, and leading worship shines through the pages of this book.
I’s encourage you to grab a copy of More Than a Worship Leader on Amazon and check out more content from Gary at www.garydurbin.com.
Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper. This is one of the best books I have ever read on the topic of the nature of Scripture. In this book Piper helps the reader understand the goal of reading the Bible as well as how to go about reading the Bible. I walked away from this book with a deeper appreciation for the supernatural nature of the Scriptures as well a better understand of how I should go about reading it the way God wants me to. In typical Piper fashion this book is extremely thorough and will take some time for the average reader to work their way through it. As in all of Piper’s writing and teaching his aim is for Christians to deeply savor and treasure Christ. In this book he does just that through encouraging faithful and God-honoring Bible reading.
A New Kind of Leader by Reggie Joiner. This is a little book that packs a big punch. In this book Joiner encourages leaders to lead and minister in such a way that impacts the faith (both now and in the future) of the younger generation in the church. He walks through a few phrases that should characterize leaders who want to impact the younger generation: kids matter, strategy matters, your church matters, every family matters, the truth matters, doing good matters, and this week matters. I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves ministering to younger generations (especially within the local church) to read this book.
The New City Catechism (Devotional) by Various Authors. I’ve always been interested in working through a catechism personally as well as with others. This devotional helped me do just that as I used it during my own personal time with the Lord. The devotional is based off The New City Catechism, which is broken down into a series of 52 questions and answers. This devotional makes each of those questions/answers a daily devotional that contains Scripture, short section from a modern evangelical leader, as well as another short section from historical church leaders. I found this devotional very challenging as well as refreshing for my faith.
Another book I recently read that I chose not to review was Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray. I’m currently reading Pleasing People by Lou Priolo and Kingdom Come by Sam Storms.
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien. This book was one of the best books I have ever read when it comes to the topic of reading the Bible. The author’s goal in this book is to help Western readers understand how their Western context impacts the way the interpret the Bible. They point out that often we miss things (some small and some big) in Scripture that people in Eastern cultures as well as during the time when the Bible was written wouldn’t have missed. The authors chose to focus on nine major differences between Western and Eastern cultures that impact the way we read and interpret Scripture. By doing this they help the Western reader understand the Bible in the culture it was originally written. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to grow in their understanding of Scripture and how to read it well.
The Self-Aware Leader by Terry Linhart. As a leader there are times you need to step back and evaluate yourself. This book was helpful to me in doing just that. As I lead others I often neglect myself and who I am as a person and a leader. I’m glad I took some time to read this book as it served as a helpful tool is evaluating myself and helping me grow. In this book Linhart helps leaders see the blind spots they often miss. He covers areas like the leader’s past, temptations, emotions, pressures, and more. In each of these areas he helps leaders see where they can go wrong but also how they can manage them well. I really liked how there was a focus on Scripture and what it says about leadership and these blind spot areas. I also liked the practical “self-check” sections inserted throughout the book to help the reader think about and apply what they are reading. I’d recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves in a leadership position.
Facing Messy Stuff in the Church by Kenneth Swetland. Churches are messy because people are messy. Sin has caused major brokenness and people bring that brokenness into the church. In this book Swetland provides several case studies to help pastors and churches think about how they should deal with messy situations. Each chapter is it’s on case study and provides no instruction on what a church should or shouldn’t do. This allows the reader to think about their own situation and how they should handle in within their own church context. There are helpful questions at the end of each chapter to guide this process. The topics covered in this book through the case studies are – depression, sexual harassment, gambling, pornography, divorce, suicide, AIDS, grief, abuse, alcohol abuse, adultery, child molestation, homosexuality, miscarriage, murder, and abortion.
One other book I read recently I chose not to review was A Little Book on the Christian LifeA Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Smartphones have changed the landscape of our culture. Phones have impacted the way we communicate, view ourselves, work, and even interact with the Bible. All these things and more are discussed in this helpful book. In this book, Reinke walks through twelve ways the smartphone is changing us. Before getting into the twelve reasons he offers a very insightful and helpful theology of technology. As far as I’m aware that isn’t something that has been written about that much in other places. He does an excellent job of laying the foundation and then diving into the twelve reasons. I’m not going to list all twelve reasons here but there were a few that stood out to me as they where the most convicting in my own life – ignore people around us, loss of literacy, and are comfortable withs secret vices. My favorite thing about this book is how Reinke never encourages the read to just get rid of their smartphone as a way to fix the problems and issues it had created. In some cases that might be a good option for people (Reinke helps the reader walk through a few questions to consider if that should be their next step or not) but it may be that many people just need to make changes and adjustments to use their smartphones more wisely. Overall this was an excellent book I would recommend to anyone who uses a smartphone (which is almost everyone).
Conscience by Andrew Naseli & J.D. Crowley. I’ve never seen or read a book on the topic of conscience before so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. As someone who grew up in a culture that I was very legalistic I have always struggled with matters of the conscience and the Christian life. This book was extremely helpful in my journey out of that culture and into a better understanding of the freedom we have in Christ. The first few chapters of this book deal with defining conscience and tracing it’s appearance throughout the Bible. Once the foundation is laid the obvious questions about living as a Christian with a conscience as well as how to relate to other Christians when our consciences don’t agree. In this book the Christian is encouraged to not ignore their conscience but to calibrate it so it’s in line with God and His Word. The authors rightly point out that people tend to have one of two extremes when it comes to their conscience – insensitive (they ignore its warnings and end up with what Paul calls a “seared” conscience) or oversensitive (they pack it with more rules than God intends and make it more about matters of opinions rather than truth). Neither of those are good. God has given us a conscience and we should use it rightly, which requires us to calibrate it with God’s Word. I’d encourage every Christian to take the time to read this important book.
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. I’ve aways been a fan of Peterson. His consistency and commitment over the years have been something of a model of what a pastor should be about. He is a man who loves God and His Word. These things are evident in this classic book. The book serves as almost a practical commentary on Psalms 120-134 (Songs of Ascents). Peterson points out that “these fifteen Psalms were likely sung, possibly in sequence, by Hebrew pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem for the great worship festivals” (page 18). Peterson walks through these fifteen chapters and explains what each ones teaches us about an area of following Jesus. As with all his writings, these pages contain a pastoral tone from Peterson and the reader will finish this book convicted for sure but encouraged to continue walking with Jesus.
Two other books I recently finished but chose to not review here are Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Both were great read I’d highly recommend.