Books I’ve Read Recently

gospelGospel by JD Greear. This book has been on my reading list for a while. I decided to go ahead and read it in preparation for a teaching series I was doing with my students on the gospel. What I found was not only a helpful book for shaping and writing that series, but a book that challenged me personally and helped me go deeper in my love and understanding of the gospel. Greear says, “The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. I want you to see the gospel not only as a means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life” (page 5). This books helps Christians understand that the gospel is everything. “The gospel is not merely the diving board off which you jumped into the pool of Christianity,” says Greear, “the gospel is the pool itself” (page 248). The book is centered around what Geear calls “The Gospel Prayer.” It’s a tool Geear says helps him saturate himself in the gospel. He spends the majority of the book walking the reader through that prayer and helping them understand the implications of the gospel on their life. I really enjoyed chapter 8, which was on generosity. Geear does an excellent job at explaining what the relationship should be like between a gospel-centered believer and money. It was both a challenging and refreshing chapter to read. I’ve always enjoyed Greear books and would recommend this one to everyone who wants to go deeper in their love and understanding of the gospel.

HoleInHolinessBookCoverThe Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. I read my first book by DeYoung not long ago so I was excited to grab a copy of this book and give it a read. I also really enjoy reading, discussing, and studying the topic of personal holiness in the Christian life, which is what this book is about.  DeYoung spends the first chapter of this book surveying the landscape of holiness within Christianity today. He states there is a “gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness” (page 21). At first, I wasn’t sure if I agreed with DeYoung or not. But the deeper I got into this book the more I saw what he was pointing to. An intentional, disciplined pursuit of holiness is not a major theme in Christianity today. I have even seen this tread in my own Christian life at times. In this book, DeYoung urges the Christian to pursue holiness and make it a priority in their life. DeYoung keeps the gospel and Biblical teaching at the center of this encouragement. This was a short, easy to read book and God used it to help give me a better understanding of my relationship with holiness as a Christian.

41N8edp473L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Other Preacher in Lynchburg by John KillingerI have always been fascinated with reading and researching the life and ministry of Jerry Falwell Sr. Even though I don’t agree with all the things he did, I have great respect for his love for God and his boldness to do great things for God while he was on this earth. His legacy can been clearly seen in Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church, both located in Lynchburg, VA. I ran across this book a few years ago on amazon and just now got around to reading it. I was excited to read a book about Falwell and his endeavors in Lynchburg through the eyes of another pastor that was in town during Fallwell’s prime. If you do any research on Killinger, you will quickly find him and Falwell were on very different sides of major issues regarding Christianity. However, this book isn’t necessarily focused on the theological differences of Killinger and Falwell, even though that obviously came up a few times, but more on what it was like for Killinger as a pastor doing ministry in the same town as Falwell. The book covers Killinger’s time both in Lynchburg and his time after moving away from Lynchburg to take another ministry position in Los Angles. This was very interesting book that made me appreciate Falwell even more, but at the same time scratch my head and wonder why he did some of the things he did.

Guest Post: Gospel Centered Youth Ministry

Within evangelical circles there’s a lot, I mean a lot, of talk about gospel-centeredness. This is by no means a bad thing, and God has personally used this movement in my life in which I have gleaned much from the wisdom of those advocating this movement. So when we think about being “gospel-centered,” we want to make sure that we are placing the gospel at the core of every area of life, specifically within the church and in it’s various ministries. To this area, youth ministry is no exception. Students can be taught this concept, and youth ministry leaders can model this concept before them. Here are a few ways to make sure the gospel is at the center of your youth ministry:

1. Make Jesus the Hero of Your Preaching. If Jesus is not the Hero when it comes to our preaching, then we’re probably giving our students a moralistic gospel. Instead of focusing on how your students can do better, focus on Jesus, the One who makes them not just better, but new (2 Cor. 5:17). We tend to get wrapped up in behavior modification, which constantly says “Do better” but when we look at Jesus and what He offers us in the gospel, He says, “It’s done” (cf. John 19:30). This truth has the power to change lives. I grew up with conception that the gospel changed me at conversion, but then I had to work really hard to gain God’s approval from then on. This can be a very frustrating way to live! Grace is a continual part of the Christian life, and God’s grace remains the same for both Christians and non-Christians. Our students can grasp this, and it is truly liberating to know that what you do from day to day does not rest on you, but on what Christ has done for you.

2. Build Intentional Relationships With Your Students. This is something that we all hear, but how vital this is to a student ministry that is centered on the gospel! The more I do ministry, the more I see the importance of relationships with our students. They need us to teach the gospel to them, but they also need to see the gospel lived out before their eyes. You may be one of the few people in a student’s life that cares enough about them to get past the surface and really see what their needs are. The gospel is ultimately the cure for every need in every student’s life. They need us tell them that their sin brings bondage, and that Jesus brings liberation. We should strive to build intentional relationships with our students to lovingly show them their deepest need, the gospel.

3. Be Strategic in Your Programming. Most youth guys and girls love programming. It’s just one of those parts about a youth worker that gets the blood pumping! I love programming as well, but programming can be dangerous if the focus is on the program itself over the people whom we are ministering to. We always have to remember that our ministry is about people. People that Jesus died to save, and people that we have an opportunity to speak the truth of the gospel into their lives! So if the mission of your ministry is something like what I just mentioned, make sure that your ministry program reflects that mission. Strive for a balance in what you are doing, and give your students opportunities to serve and proclaim what Jesus has done for them. Lots of youth ministry events we do are fun, and that’s great, but when was the last time we did an event where our students served the community? How are we training our students for ministry? Do they know how to verbally tell someone about Jesus? Our programming should reflect our ministry’s mission.

The gospel has radically transformed my life! The ridiculous amount of grace that God has showed me is incomprehensible (cf. John 1:16)! Just think about how the gospel has changed your life. Now think about your students, and how you would love for their lives to be changed the ways yours has. Hopefully you’re seeing that, and that gives you even more motivation to elevate Jesus to His rightful place, which is above all things (Col. 1:18). I am convinced that if the truth of Jesus Christ is at the core of our youth ministries, we will see lives transformed by its life-saving power.

This guest post was written by one of my best friends Mark Etheridge. Mark is currently a youth ministry intern at Union Grove Baptist Church in Lexington, NC. He is a recent graduate of Liberty University and is planning on attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Spring.

Refuel Innovate Church Conference 2011

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the first day of the Refuel Innovate Church Conference at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. I saw this conference online a few months ago and thought it looked real good, but wasn’t planning on attending. I was planning on traveling up to Ohio for a week to visit my girlfriends family with her so we decided that on the way to Ohio we would stop at Refuel for the first day of the conference. I am so glad we did because God used the first day of the conferences yesterday in my life in great ways! I try to enjoy, but also think critically of every conference I go to so I can either encourage or discourage someone to go to the same conference and know enough about the conference to spread the word if it’s a good one. So I will try and cover some important areas here so hopefully this post will help you consider attending Refuel in the years to come.

Speakers: The speakers were great! Because it was put on by Thomas Road and Jonathan Falwell they had a strong pull to probably get any big time speaker they wanted. The speaker line up was John Maxwell, Ed Stetzer, Steven Furtick, Jonathan Falwell, Ron Luce, Johnny Hunt, Jud Wilhit, and Tom Mullins. Since I only attended the first day of the conference I only got to hear John Maxwell, Ed Stetzer, and Steven Furtick. All three of these speakers did a great job at sharing their hearts about ministry and leadership as well as preach the Word of God faithfully and powerfully. Maxwell spoke about having a “life list” where you put various things down on a list that you focus on doing, or being, daily. Ed Stetzer spoke on ministry idolatry which was extremely convicting as he spoke on how ministry becomes an idol many times. Steven Furtick, with all his passion and heart, spoke about believing God to accomplish the dream and vision He has given you. As far as the conference goes, the speakers where the best I have heard in a long time. If your looking for a conference with great speakers this conference is for you. I give this conference a 10 out of 10 for speakers.

Schedule: This is the only part of the conference I did not enjoy. Refuel was scheduled like this: two main sessions, roundtable lunch workshops, then two more main sessions. The second day was going to scheduled the same way except for the lunch workshops. I would have liked to have one main session in the morning then throughout the day have various workshops on different topics or issues in ministry. This is how most of the conferences I have been to have been set up and I enjoyed it very much. The Simply Youth Ministry Conference, which I would suggest for all youth pastors and youth workers, that I have attended for three years is like this. The day starts with a main sessions then you have fifty plus workshops and tracks to choose from to enjoy throughout the day and then the day closes with another main sessions. Now I understand of the smaller size and less speakers at Refuel, that keeps them from scheduling it this way, but more workshops would have been better than just main session after main session. Because of the world class speakers the main sessions back to back was not that bad and it was still enjoyable. I give this conference a 8 out of 10 for the scheduling.

Location and Facilities: You could have not asked for a better place for this conference. The campus of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University has been one of the best places I have ever seen for a big conference like this one. The main sessions were held in the worship center of Thomas Road and the that place is extremely comfortable. The seats have to be the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in within a worship center. Main street is what Thomas Road calls the area outside the worship center and that holds their coffee shop, book store, bathrooms, kids area, and more. Each speaker had their books out on main street at a booth for sale as well as different organizations such as Liberty University, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, World Help, and more had their booths set up. The facilities of Thomas Road are top notch and made it a perfect place to hold this conference. I give this conference a 10 out of 10 for location and facilities.

Price: The price of this conference was perfect for all that it included. If you registered before April 19th you only had to pay $49 and then if you waited until conference you was paying $59. For the speakers, free conference materials, and lunch this is pretty good. Since I am a college student I was able to go for the college student rate of $15! I give this conference a 9 out of 10 for the price.

Overall I would highly suggest this conference for all church leaders both full-time and lay leaders. I hope I can attend this conference again in the future and I’m sure it will only get better and better each year. I hope this short review of the conference might help you decided if you would attend in a future year or not.

The Unlikely Disciple

lens3870002_1239080967roose-unlikely-disciple-closeupI recently just finished The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. By far, this has been one of my favorite books I have ever read! Kevin Roose is a student at Brown University, a liberal school known for their liberal views. Kevin meets a group of evangelical Christian students from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University one day. As he spends a few minutes talking with them, he realizes he doesn’t know anything about the evangelical world of Christians and has a hard time conversing with them. Because of this, Kevin decides to transfer to Liberty University for a semester to see what the evangelical Christian world is all about. As he spends his semester at Liberty, he does not tell anyone he an unbeliever and for a semester, he basically fakes being a Christian. Throughout the semester at Liberty, Kevin learns all about the evangelical world, the good and the bad! Without telling you anymore of the story, there were two things that stood out to me as I read through this book.

First, while Kevin is a Liberty, he befriends many Christians, but even Kevin admits, they don’t act like Christians they act just like his secular friends from Brown. This fact struck home because as Christians we are called to be different than the world, but here we have Liberty students, Christians students, that are acting just like the world. I am not bashing on Liberty because even my Bible college has students who don’t act like Christians. The point us, these people didn’t know Kevin was a nonbeliever. So that whole time they were acting nothing like Christians, they were being a horrible witness for an unbeliever, Kevin Roose. At the end of the book, when Kevin goes back to Liberty and tells his friends that he made about what he was doing and the fact he wasn’t a believer, many of them felt horrible because they knew they didn’t like the best for God while he was with them. This was a lesson to me to always be living for God no matter what, where, or when because they may be a lost person closer to you than you imagine.

Secondly, we as Christians forget about how the lost world sees us. Kevin admits that the way he saw evangelical Christians was wrong. Kevin says, “…not that you were right, but that I was wrong.” Sad to say, Kevin Roose never became a believer because of the time spent at Liberty, but he did admit that the way he saw Christians was wrong. As Christians, we have the reputation of being mean, harsh people who cause hurt and anger to nonbelievers. But we need to make sure we are standing firm upon God’s Word and taking a stand for God in this world, but make sure we are showing the nonbelievers that we really do love them and want them to come into the family of God.

I highly recommend this book for anyone! It is a great book to read and will really open your mind and eyes up to how the world see us as Christians. For more info on the book and Kevin Roose, go to www.kevinroose.com. Here is a video that gives an insight to the book:

“The Glass Castle”

6a00c2251dba2a549d00cdf7e83dcf094f-500piI am almost done reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. In the great memoir by Walls, she recounts her childhood as a part of a nomadic family that was always moving from state to state. He dad was a radical man who moved his family because of legal reasons and to not be found. Her mother was an artist, but never made it anywhere with her art. Walls life was up and down and some places she lived her and her family became pretty wealthy, but only to move again and be poor. She goes through many hard things and she recounts all the good and bad of growing up in her bad environment. Near the end of the book, Walls recounts how she made it from that type of family to become a pretty successful woman making a living in New York City. Overall, this is a great book that really opens your eyes to how rough some children have it growing up in very tough environments. The next book on my list to read is The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. This interesting book is written by a Brown University student, Kevin Roose, who transfers to Liberty University for a semester to see what Evangelical Christians are all about. I have a few friends who have read it and really liked it so I believe I will enjoy it! I will post a review about it after I read it. But I would definitely recommend The Glass Castle to anyone who enjoys reading about people growing up in hard situations, but making it through to become a great person!

Here is a video that intrioduces the book and gives brief overview of what it’s all about: