Books I’ve Read Recently

3782Misreading 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.

81pthaDM8wL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_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.

22116686Facing 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.

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Books I’ve Read Recently

412glbtjnrl-_sx326_bo1204203200_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.

407250Erasing 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).

51g97t4vywl-_sx370_bo1204203200_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.

Book Review: The Most Excellent Way to Lead by Perry Noble

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I read and reviewed this book before the news came out about Perry Noble no longer being the Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church. However, my opinions on this book, what I learned from it, and what I liked about it, hasn’t changed. I am heartbroken over the news and what has happened in the life of Perry as well as NewSpring Church but believe we can all still learn something from this excellent book.

One of the books I just finished was Perry Noble’s newest book on leadership called The Most Excellent Way to Lead. I have always enjoyed Noble’s leadership stuff as well as his books (his book Overwhelmed was a game changer for me personally) so I was excited to read this one.

When most people hear “1 Corinthians 13” they automatically think of the “love chapter.” It’s a chapter that is usually tied into the topic love in the context of marriage or a relationship. However, Noble argues (and I would agree with him) that it seems like this is chapter is better suited for the context of leadership. As Noble says, “In 1 Corinthians 12, the emphasis of Paul’s writing to the church is on spiritual gifts, leadership, and the importance of working together. In 1 Corinthians 14, he continues this line of reasoning as he encourages leaders to sound a clear call for their followers. But right in the middle of these two chapters we find 1 Corinthians 13” (page 5). Noble continues by arguing the context of chapter 13 then is leadership. He says, “Paul is continuing his discussion about leadership here, and when he says he’s going to show you the most excellent way, I believe he’s saying, ‘I will show you the most excellent way to lead” (page 6).

Throughout this book, Noble uses Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 13 to show his readers how to become better leaders. In this book Noble addresses the heart of the leader. Like Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians 13, the heart of the leader is most important. The way to become a better leader is through having the right heart attitude.

I want to change up the way I do the rest of this review. I want to share three things I really liked about this book.

First, it focused less on what leaders do and more on who leaders are. This book focuses on the heart of the leader. If the heart of the leader is in the right place than correct and loving leadership will flow out of them. Noble shares very practical leadership advice throughout this book but the theme throughout is the heart of the leader. Through this book, God showed me a lot about my heart in regards to my leadership. I was encouraged, challenged, and convicted. It was just what I needed for this season of my leadership journey.

Second, it included a ton of great leadership one liners. One of the things I have always enjoyed about Noble’s leadership stuff (podcasts, articles, etc.) is his great leadership one liners. These are simple statements that contain a wealth of leadership knowledge and advice. At the end of each chapter this book includes a page of “summary statements” from that chapter. Just having these pages to look back on and read the leadership one liners is huge!

Third, I appreciated Noble’s honesty and humility throughout this book. Noble shares a good bit of his leadership failures and mistakes. He even shares about seasons in his life that were very dark and things that most leaders with his platform would like to keep quiet. I was encouraged by his authenticity and humility. He isn’t a guy who is claiming he has it all together and he has done it all correctly and we should follow him. He shares his failures, faults, and mistakes but continually points to God and how God has continued to shape him into a better leader.

The book is very straight-forward, easy to read, and will impact those leaders who take the time to read it. I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves in a leadership position to read it.

3 Ways to Use Student Leaders in Your Ministry

12771549_10209197367077562_8672662913260402396_oAn important aspect of student ministry is student leadership. Every student ministry needs student leaders. When students begin to lead and take ownership within their student ministry amazing things happen. It’s important we give students leadership opportunities instead of just making our staff and volunteers do everything.

But how do we use student leaders in our student ministry? There are countless ways to do this and it will look different in every student ministry. However, there are three key ways we have used student leaders in our ministry that I think can be translated to almost any other student ministry.

Planning. One of the worst things we can do is plan events for students without actually getting any input from students. If we want to have an event that connects well with students we need to know what they want and don’t want. We need to discover what things are popular in their world and what would reach other students in their context. For the past two years we have been using our student leaders in our planning process for events and retreats. It’s been a game changer. Our events and retreats have gotten much better because of this. Don’t be afraid to ask student leaders for their ideas and input. Also, don’t be afraid to give your student leaders ownership over an entire event. We have done this and are planning to do it even more in the future.

Interacting with new students. Our hope should be that all our students are welcoming and interacting with new students when they come into our ministry. We can’t expect every student to do that. However, we can expect our student leaders to do it. When student leaders join the team they should be reminded that they will be held to a higher standard and will be asked to lead in various ways. So one of the things we require all our student leaders to do is to be on the lookout for new students when they walk in. If they see one, they are to go talk to them and hangout with them throughout the night. The phrase we communicate over and over to our student leaders is this – “No student left behind.” We want every student to feel welcomed and to feel like they belong. We don’t want them left alone in any way. This will require a lot of coaching on your part. You may have to remind your student leaders of this every week. But it’s worth it. Students interacting with new students and making them feel comfortable and welcomed is huge!

Teaching. Yes, I said teaching. Don’t be afraid to step aside and let your student leaders do some teaching. This will require you to do a lot of coaching but it is worth it. Walk your student leaders through how they can plan and teach a lesson or a whole series. Give them time to then do that together. Once they are ready give them the stage. Have them teach for a night or a few nights. Students teaching God’s Word to other students is an awesome thing. This may sound risky to some but it’s a risk that’s worth taking. It will help your student leaders grow in their knowledge of the Bible as well as how they can communicate it to others. One of the highlights of this year has been watching our student leaders plan and teach an entire series.

These are just three ways we use our student leaders in our ministry. I’d encourage you to try these three things with your student leaders. Also, don’t just settle for these three. Be creative and find your own ways to use your student leaders.

Books I’ve Read Recently

Catalyst-Leader-BookThe Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick. I decided to pick this book up and read since I haven’t read a leadership book in a while. Brad Lomenick wrote this book while he was the leader of Catalyst, which is an organization that equips and inspires young Christian leaders through events, resources, consulting, and community. In this book, Lemonick puts forth eight essentials that are required for what he calls a “change maker.” The eight essentials (which could also be called characteristics) are: called, authentic, passionate, capable, courageous, principled, hopeful, and collaborative. Each chapter covers one of these essentials. In each chapter Lemonick explains why the particular characteristic is important to leadership as well as ways leaders can grow in that area of leadership. Two of the things I really liked about this book was how practical it was as well as all the stories Lemonick includes of people who demonstrate each characteristic. The stories are inspiriting and serve as great reminders of what being a “change maker” really means. This is a great read for anyone in leadership who wants some practical tips on becoming a better leader.

Amish-Values-for-Your-Family-195x300Amish Values for Your Family by Suzanne Fisher. I have always been intrigued by the Amish. Their simple life and faith has always been something I want to learn more about. One of the areas of the Amish I have always admired is how they view and go about family, which is why I decided to read this book. The point of this book is not to encourage people to “go Amish.” It’s an encouragement to look into the family life of the Amish and see what values we can take from them and apply to our own families. Fisher says, “There is much we can learn from these gentle people about raising our families well: to help prioritizes what’s truly important, to simplify decision making, to slow down as a family, to safeguard time together, and when age-appropriate, to let go” (page 13). The book covers four broad “values” the Amish have in regard to family: children are love but not adored, great expectations, daily bread, and letting go. Each chapter gives a short story of a family living out one of those values. The section I really enjoyed and learned the most from was “children are loved and not adored.” As a culture parents put their children at the center of their life and their family. Everything seems to revolve around the child. However, this doesn’t always proceeds the best results. In many cases this hurts the family and the child. The Amish have figured out a way to love their children but not revolve their whole life and family around those children. Instead, those children become a vital part of the family and benefit the family. Also, each chapter ends with a short summary of how families can take that story and the value it teaches and apply it to their family. This is a book I would highly recommend to parents of children of any age.

41wF1qfueZL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Beyond Small Talk by Rachel Blom. This little book contains extremely helpful information on how to have conversations with teenagers. As the title suggests, Blom helps the reader understand how they can move from “small talk,” which is actually important and needed, to more meaningful conversations about God. What I loved about this book is how Blom doesn’t paint “small talk” as a bad thing or something we should look down on because it’s not “spiritual.” Instead, Blom shares how we can actually become better at “small talk,” which will set us up to move into those deeper conversations. This book contains very practical tips on almost everything someone needs to know in order to have good conversations with teenagers. There are chapters on things like building trust, getting small groups talking (which is a must read for anyone who leaders a small group made up of teenagers), and knowing what to say/what not to say. I’d encourage anyone who deals with teenagers often, especially parents and youth workers, to read this book. It’s short and simple, but very helpful. Talking with teenagers is important and those of us who deal closely with them should strive to grow in this area. As Blom says in the introduction of this book, “It’s imperative that we talk with them, that we succeed in opening up a real dialogue.” This book will help you do just that.

Two other books that I also read that I chose not to review were A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer, which is an older book but is still a great read that I would recommend to all Christians, as well as The Divorce Dilemma by John MacArthur, which is a very helpful book in understanding what the Bible teaches about divorce.