Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. This book is the story of how a devote Muslim came to faith in Christ. Qureshi walks the reader through his journey of moving from a Muslim who adamantly argued against Christianity to someone who finds that Christianity is actually true. Qureshi’s story was an encouraging and enjoyable read. His story shows the power of the Gospel and effectiveness of Christians loving unbelievers and dialoging with them about their faith. Qureshi also writes this book in a way that helps the reader understand the basic ideas of Isalm. He includes definitions and explanations for most Islamic words and sayings he uses throughout the book. The reader comes away from this book not only informed about Qureshi’s faith journey but also the beliefs behind the Islamic faith.
Know Doubt by John Ortberg. Doubt is not the opposite of faith or unbelief. Doubt can and many times does coexist with faith. This is what Ortberg argues in this book, which was previously titled Faith and Doubt. In this book Ortberg helps the reader understand how many times doubts come with true faith. He even admits some of his own. Unfortunately this isn’t the norm in most Christian circles. Doubt is seen as something we should suppress and not bring up. This leaves many Christians sinking in their doubt and wondering if they even have any true faith to begin with. This book helps Christians see that doubts are not always bad (even though it can go bad – that’s the subject of chapter 8) and many times is a part of growing and experiencing true faith. My favorite part of this book was chapter 3 where Ortberg explains what philosopher Michael Novak calls three different kinds of convictions – public, private, and core. This chapter as well as the rest of the book was fantastic. I’d recommend this book to both Christians and skeptics.
Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur. Similar to the book above, this book deals with the issue of doubt. This book however focuses specifically on doubt in regards to salvation. MacAthur believes many true believers lack assurance of their salvation (page 9-10). With a very pastoral and shepherding tone, MaArthurs spends his time in this book helping Christians understand the security of their salvation and how they can know for sure if they have experienced true salvation. My favorite part of this book was part 2 where MacArthur shares eleven tests from 1 John that can be used to evaluate the genuineness of your salvation. Overall this was a solid book on the subject of doubt and the assurance of salvation. I’d recommend them book to anyone who has or is struggling with this issue.
Next up on my reading list is Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson.
On Preaching by H.B. Charles, Jr. I always enjoy reading books on preaching. This was one of my favorites because of all the practical insights it includes. It’s a short book that includes very short chapters. Each chapter covers something in regards to preaching. It feels almost like sitting at a coffee shop with a seasoned preacher who is sharing all the wisdom he has about preaching with you. I enjoyed every chapter of this little book. I’d encouraged anyone who is involved in preaching ministry to read this book. No matter if you’re a beginner or have been preaching for many years, this book will encourage and sharpen your skills.
Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. This is one of those books that have been on my list for a long time. Because I am doing a series with our students on what happens after we die, which includes a sermon on hell, I decided to pick this book up and give it a read. Chan and Sprinkle do a great job at addressing the topic of hell from a Biblical point of view. This book almost serves as a short survey of what the Bible teaches on hell. Believers, and non-believers, would do well to read this book. It brings the reader face to face with the reality of hell and what the Bible says about it. There was much I enjoyed about this book but my favorite parts where the short survey of universalism (chapter one) and two chapters on what Jesus and His early followers believed about hell (chapter two and three).
The Top Ten Leadership Commandments by Hans Finzel. The Bible is full of great leaders that God used to do amazing things. One of those great leaders was Moses. In this book, Finzel looks at the life and leadership of Moses and pulls out ten “leadership commandments” that leaders should follow. I enjoyed Finzel’s Biblical approach to leadership in this book as well as how he helped the reader understand how they can apply these lessons to their own leadership. Mixed in with all of this was many examples and illustrations from Finzel’s own leadership journey. This wasn’t one of the best leadership books I have read but it was encouraging and helpful.
The Christ-Centered Expositor by Tony Merida. This is by far one of the best preaching books I have ever read. From the title of the book it’s pretty easy to catch what Merida is passionate – expository preaching that is Christ-centered. The goal of this helpful books is to help preachers (even though others could benefit from this book but his main audience is preachers) understand how they can better preach Christ-centered expository sermons. It serves as a handbook to do just that. What I love about this book is how Merida spends the first half talking about the preachers heart. These are challenging chapters that will cause preachers to evaluate their life, doctrine, prayer life, and more. These early chapters help the preacher see that who is plays into what he preaches. The second half of the book is extremely practical. These chapters lay out a five step process to writing Christ-centered expository sermons. I’d recommend this book to those who have been preaching for a long time as well as those who may be in seminary preparing for pastoral ministry. It’s also helpful for those in between who are early in their ministry career.
Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. This is the newest book put out by the Fuller Youth Institute. The Churches Engaging Young People project studied churches who were effectively engaging 15-29 year olds (click here to read more about their research). From their research they found out there are six essential strategies that churches use to engage teenagers and young adults. This book helps churches understand how they too can practice these essential strategies in their context. I really enjoyed the depth of this book and the extent of the research. In addition, the book also gives many practical steps for churches to follow if they want to effectively reach teenagers and young adults. I also really liked how they included many stories of churches doing this well. I came away with some great ideas but also with some fresh inspiration for reaching teenagers and young adults in the context of the local church. I would recommend this book to anyone who serves in a local church, especially those who work with teenagers and young adults.
Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. In this book Alcorn helps the reader understand money in light of God’s Word. There is almost too much in this book to even be able to write a short review. It’s packed with challenging chapters on tithing, giving, debt, savings, materialism, church finances, and money in light of eternity. Alcorn is both extremely Biblical and practical. He doesn’t hold back in sharing with the reader what God says about money and goes to great lengths to provide practical things for the reader to do in regards to their money. I’d recommend this book to every believer who wants to better understand God’s view of money and how they should handle it.
Up next on my reading list is On Preaching by H.B. Charles and Erasing Hell by Francis Chan.
There are a few books I consider “must reads” for people in student ministry (if you want to know what they are ask me). Recently I read a book I would add to that list and it’s called Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry. It’s one of the most theological and practical books I have ever read in regards to student ministry.
One of the strengths of this book is the variety of voices. Every chapter focuses on a different area of student ministry and each chapter is written by someone who has a passion and gifting in that area. Each chapter is written pretty much in the same way – a section on how the Gospel informs and shapes that area of student ministry and a section on how to practically grow in that area of student ministry. Also, at the end of each chapter there is a list of recommended books on the subject of the chapter.
Two of my favorite chapters were Eric McKiddie’s chapter on expositional teaching and Tom Olson’s chapter on singing. All the chapters in this book were excellent but these two were the ones that impacted me the most.
In McKiddie’s chapter, he argues that teaching the Bible is the main task of anyone in student ministry. He says, “While fun is an indispensable part of youth ministry, your main task is to convince your students, week after week, why they need Jesus and to show how the Gospel profoundly after every area of life” (page 55). He believes expositional teaching is the best method for this. After giving his reasons for expositional teaching in student ministry he gives some practical steps in how to craft a Biblical expositional sermon for students. His steps serve as great reminders for people newer to writing sermons as well as to seasoned veterans. Olson’s chapter on singing was another one that I really enjoyed. He argues that corporate worship should be vital a part of student ministry. He says, “It’s not just a warm-up for the message or a means to corral hyperactive teenagers. God has made singing important. Singing is vital for the health of our students and the strength of our ministries and, in harmony with strong teaching, singing will get the word of Christ dwelling richly in their lives” (page 142).
I could say more about these two chapters and the rest of the book but I’d rather you grab a copy and read it for yourself. If you’re in student ministry I’d highly suggest this book for you and your team.
The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine. This book is by far one of the most honest pastoral ministry books I have ever read (Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp would be another one of those). In this book Eswine helps pastors see that despite what the “celebrating pastor” culture is telling them, pastoral ministry is more about walking with Jesus and serving Him in the local context He has placed you in. Throughout this book Eswine uses the example of Jesus to show what pastoral work looks like. From this approach it’s easy to see that our current model of pastoral work doesn’t always match up with what Jesus had in mind. This book was refreshing for someone like me who during college and seminary was influenced heavily by what we may call “celebrating pastors.” Reading and listening to guys like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick often times left the impression that if I didn’t serve at a big church or had as much influence as them I was a failure in ministry. At times it feels like I came out of college and seminary more prepared to climb the “ministry ladder” rather than serve Jesus daily in pastoral work in whatever context He put me in. This book helped me leave some of that baggage behind and focus on what really matters, which is following Jesus daily and serving Him daily in the church context He has placed me. I would highly recommend this book to pastors, especially younger guys in pastoral ministry.
Vertical Church by James McDonald. This is a book that had been on my list to read for quite some time. I decided to grab it and give it a read after hearing both good and bad things about it. In this book McDonald argues that churches should be “vertical.” By that he means that churches, particularly in their weekly worship services, should be about the glory of God and helping people experience that glory. The bottom line seems to be that churches should be more about God’s glory and not cultural relevance or anything else that drives churches and directs what they do. The first half of the book deals more with a Biblical basis for the “vertical church” model and the second half is more practical in that it explains how a church can be “vertical.” In the second half of the book, McDonald goes through several pillars of a vertical church – unashamed adoration, unapologetic preaching, unafraid witness, and increasing prayer. Overall I enjoyed this book. However, there were a few things that didn’t sit well with me. First, McDonald seems to have a “my way or the highway” approach. This makes sense when you realize McDonald argues that the “vertical church” model is Biblical. He has a deep and strong conviction of that, which leads to his dogmatic tone. But at times it came across a bit much. Second, his chapter on worship (unashamed adoration) seemed to make the case that expression in worship is the end goal and when one lacks expression in worship they lack true worship. I like his heart behind this chapter – that true worship seems to show itself in expression (we see that in the Bible, especially in Psalms). But true worship (which we need to be careful not to just consider singing in church as worship, worship extends beyond just singing), doesn’t always show itself in outward expression. Tim Challies shares more about the weakness and danger in this chapter as well as some other chapters in this book in his review.
When Trouble Comes by Phil Ryken. I read this book in preparation for a series I did with our students called “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.” This book not only gave me some nuggets for that series but also helped me understand how to respond when troubles comes into my own life. This book works off the premise that trouble is a part of our lives in this fallen world. Life is tough and trouble comes our way more than we would like. In this book, Ryken uses various Biblical characters and their troubles to show us how we can walk with God when those kinds of troubles come at us. Each chapter is very practical and easily to apply to your life, especially if you’re going through the same type of trouble that Biblical character is going through. This is an easy read that I would recommend to everyone.
Two others books I recently read that I chose not to review were Culture Making by Andy Crouch and Excellent Preaching by Criag Bartholomew.