Books I’ve Read Recently

81eclU0ZD5LLetters to the Church by Francis Chan. In Chan’s most recent book he takes the time to explain why he left the “megachurch world,” what he learned in his time away, and what he is currently up to in ministry. In addition to sharing about his own journey, Chan spends much of this book warning the church of the dangerous in our current church culture as well as calling the church back to the important things. In classic Chan fashion, he doesn’t sugarcoat anything and forces you to ask tough questions about the current state of the church in our world today. I enjoyed reading about Chan’s journey out of the megachurch culture, what he learned as he did some other stuff, and what he is doing now. The current model of church ministry he is doing now is very different and intriguing. In the book he nicknames it “churchbnb.” It’s a network of house churches that stay small and build very intentional communities. He explains much more of the details near the end of this book. I’d recommend this book to anyone but especially church leaders. It will help church leaders evaluate where they are at as a church and force them to ask some tough questions about their ministry.

51OW+GItTZL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_I Will Not Fear by Melba Pattillo Beals. Beals was one of the Little Rock Nine, who in light of the Supreme Court ruling that segregation of America’s public schools was unconstitutional, enrolled at Little Rock High School in 1957. In this book she writes about that experience and how it impacted her life after. She shares about what she learned from that experience and how she has applied it to other challenges in her life. She dives into her journey of leaving the south and living out west. She also shares about her struggle to become a well-know and very successful news reporter. Her story is fascinating and at times will make you cry and other times angry. It’s a story of a woman who endured racism from an early age and how even as an adult continued to face challenges due to the color of her skin. However, she didn’t let it stop her and has shown that with God’s help all things are possible. This was an excellent read that I would recommend to everyone.

Gay-Girl-Good-God-book-cover-2Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry. The story that makes up this book is one of redemption where the Gospel and God’s grace is on full display. In this book Jackie Hill Perry shares her journey from homosexuality to becoming a follower of Jesus. It’s real, honesty and eye-opening. There were two big things I loved about this book. First, the style of Perry’s writing is so much fun to read. She does spoken word so it’s no wonder she writes so well. It’s truly a fun and beautiful read. Second, Perry does a great job throughout the book pushing back against the idea that if a someone with same-sex attraction comes to faith in Christ they will be healed of that same-sex attraction. It’s the idea that God makes someone straight when they become a Christian. This false teaching does so much harm to the new believer and I’m glad Perry pushes back against it. She does so with Scripture and experience. Overall this was a great book and serves as a great resource for the ongoing discussion of homosexuality and Christianity.

I’m currently reading The Unsaved Christian Dean Inserra and The Praying Life by Paul Miller.

Sermon – Sacred/Secular Split

Currently we are in a series at Redemption Chapel called “Christian Atheism.” The idea behind this series is that many times as Christians there is a contradiction between what we say we believe and how we live our lives day in and day out. Many times we claim to be theists but in reality we live like atheists. I had the privilege to preach during this series and dived into the idea of having a “sacred/secular split” lifestyle. Below is that sermon. I hope it’s a blessing and a challenge to you.

Book Review: 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me

41nz6oBmELL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Seminary was a great experience. I gained a ton of knowledge about the Bible, theology, and ministry practices. However, I quickly learned that full-time ministry came with a host of things seminary never prepared me for. There are some things you can’t learn in seminary and the only place you’re going to learn them is in the thick of ministry.

That is what this book is all about. 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me is an easy read that includes short chapters from various writers on topics you will not learn in seminary. These are topics you will only learn as you pursue ministry in the local church. Some of these topics are things like what to do when your church is dying, leading your wife, managing volunteers, handling conflict, and knowing when to leave your church. All these topics and more are talked about and the reader is given practical insight into each of these important topics.

I really enjoyed this book and there are few things stood out to me about that I’d like to mention. First, it has a Gospel and Biblical focus. The writers are not just talking about these topics and giving their opinions on what to do. The advice and application given in each area is Gospel-centered and based upon Scripture. The writers call the reader to remember the Gospel frequently and encourages them to obey God’s Word in these areas. Second, the chapters are short and practical. The topics are not beat to death but instead hit on in a timely and focused manner. Each chapter includes a ton of practical things the reader can apply to their own ministry context. Third, seminary is upheld as an important thing but not the only thing. The writers don’t bash seminary. They instead talk highly of it but are honest about its weaknesses and shortcomings. One writer says, “We do not intend to denigrate the valuable work of seminaries. Rather, we want to help young pastors, seminary students, and other aspiring ministers learn from our experience how God fits a man to be a faithful and effective minister” (page 145).

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is either in or has attended seminary and desires to go into local church ministry. I would also encourage those currently in ministry to read this book and gain some practical insight on these important topics.

Books I’ve Read Recently

510broL5n+L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Fundamentalist by Joey Svendsen. This was by far the most raw and honest book I have ever read. However, it was much needed in my life right now. In this book Svendsen shares about his legalistic upbringing in the church as well as his ongoing struggles with mental illness. One of the main themes throughout this book is Svendsen’s journey of understanding his own salvation. He shares about how he use to view the “sinner’s prayer” as a checklist of things he must say and how he felt guilt about certain behaviors or activities all the while wrestling with his faith. He continues to share his stories of faith, doubt, and mental illness all the way up into adulthood. The subtitle of the book gives you a peak into the beauty of this story – “Stories of a mentally ill, obsessive compulsive, legalistic youth group kid turned pastor.” It’s a book that shows how our upbringing can impact us in huge ways and how our own brokenness keeps us from seeing and enjoying the beauty of the Gospel. This was a great read but I say that with caution. If you’re offended by Christians who cuss and are comfortable with talking about sex and related issues openly this is not the book for you. If you are familiar with Svendsen and his work with the BadChristian community this will come as no surprise. I’d still recommend the book but be warned there will be things in this book that don’t comfortably fit into the “Christian book” category. But that’s ok; it’s a great book!

919yabQY9KLLife Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is one of Bonhoeffer’s most popular books and it stands as a classic on the topic of Christian community. In this little book Bonhoeffer lays out what Christian community is (chapter 1) and then follows that with what daily life looks like with other believers (chapter 2) as well as with yourself (chapter 3). The final two chapters deal with ministering to others as well as confession within the Christian community. The entire book is deeply rooted in Scripture but also extremely practical for Christians among all generations. This book helped me see exactly what God calls me to when it comes to community as well as how that should practically look in my life. There are encouragements in this book that may not come naturally or easy for us in our world today but I believe Christians reading this book, including myself, would do well to follow what Bonhoeffer is suggesting. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is desiring to get a good framework on what Christian community is and how it looks practically within the church.

41aMVzv0zzL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken. This is another book on the topic of Christian community. Like the title suggest, the theme of this book is being “uncomfortable.” McCracken argues that both our faith and community as Christians is and should be a bit uncomfortable. In the first section on “uncomfortable faith” he lays out how our faith calls us towards the uncomfortable. Everything from the cross, holiness, love, mission, and more doesn’t come naturally to us. Faith propels us to believe and live out some uncomfortable truths. Then he gets into section two on “uncomfortable community.” In this section he dives into various parts of Christian community and how they are important and needed no matter how uncomfortable they make us. For example, he deals with topics like racial diversity, worship styles, and church authority. Two things really stood out to me about this book. First, McCracken rightly admits there is no “perfect church” and that searching for a church that is the perfect fit for you is the wrong approach. In our culture of consumerism this is a much needed reminder. I needed it and I think others do as well. Second, he lives out what he writes. He shares about how his own church context is not the most comfortable to him and how his church isn’t the “perfect fit” for him. He shares stories and illustrations from this part of his life and it’s extremely helpful.

Two other books I’ve recently read that I chose not to review are Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley and More Than a Carpenter by Josh & Sean McDowell.

Book Review: How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman

_225_350_Book.2558.coverI’m not drawn to conversations about politics and governmental affairs. I’d also consider myself a passivest when it comes to these matters as well. However, over the past year or so this has somewhat changed with the current political climate in our country. Jonathan Leeman’s book, How the Nations Rage, helped me think through how I should and should not engage in these political matters. This book provided me with many things to think through as I set out to hopefully be a humble follower of Christ that can wisely dialogue in the public square.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. There isn’t anything negative I can really say about it. With that being the case, let me share a few things found within this book I really liked.

First, there is a great chapter on the Bible and politics (chapter 4). It seems that some people view the Bible as a political handbook in how to run a country while others claim the Bible contains nothing about politics. However, Leeman argues there is a balanced approach we can take instead of picking sides. He rightly claims that the Bible contains absolute truths that we cannot let go off no matter the political climate we find ourselves in. These absolutes are things like covenants, commissions, and commands. However, when it comes to things ideologies, constitutions, parties, candidates, and policies we should hold those loosely and seek out wisdom in making decisions in those areas. Leeman says, “When it comes to thinking about politics, the Bible is less like a book of case law and more like a constitution. A constitution does not provide a country with the rules of daily life. It provides the rules for making the rules” (page 79).

Second, there is a great section on the purpose of government. Why does government exist? Does the Bible support it? About midway through the book Leeman gives a short summary of the purpose of government from a Biblical perspective. I found this section to be one of the most helpful in the entire book. I know the Bible talks about government and that there is good use for it but I never really formed a great defense of the purpose behind it all.

Third, the local church is elevated throughout this book. What I absolutely loved about this book was how the local church was constantly elevated and kept at the center. Almost everything Leeman says in this book ties itself back to the local church. The church is where good, God honoring politics should take place. Leeman says, “Our political instincts should develop by living inside the loving and difficult relationships that comprise the church. You might even say our political thinking should be pastoral” (page 133). In addition to making points like the one above, Leeman makes a habit of using his own local church experience to share examples of what it looks like to practice good politics within the local church. These examples help the reader understand how they too can live out good politics within their own local body of believers.

I’d encourage anyone who desires to get a better grip on being a political engaged Christian to read this book. It’s balanced, thought-provoking, and will help you understand how to better being a follower of Christ who lovingly engages the world of politics.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.