The Wonder Working God by Jared Wilson. I’ve always enjoyed Wilson’s books so I was excited to read this one. In this book Wilson dives into the subject of miracles and helps the reader understand what miracles are all about. Wilson says, “Miracles do not serve so much to prove that there is a God but that the Lord is God and we are not” (page 13). Throughout this book Wilson discusses various miracles Jesus performed and helps us understand what they reveal about Him. Many of the miracles that are discussed in this book are ones I have heard, read, and even studied many times, but I seemed to learn something new about each one of them from this book. I look forward to hopefully reading Wilson’s book The Storytelling God soon, in which Wilson talks about the parables of Jesus.
The 7 Best Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible by Andy Blanks. This is a book that has been on my shelve for a while. I try and read as many books on teaching and preaching as possible. Before taking this book off my shelve it had been awhile since I read a book on specifically teaching the Bible to teenagers. Since I do that on a weekly basis I’m always willing to learn more and sharpen my skills. In this book Blanks shares (you probably already guessed it from the title) seven best practices to help you become a better teacher of the Bible to teenagers. Teaching the Bible to teenagers is not an easy task and to do it well is even harder. In this book Blanks shares tons of practical advice and insights to help you become a better teacher. I’d encourage anyone who teaches the Bible to teenagers, whether that’s a full-time student pastor or a volunteer leader, to do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s a good, simple read that will help you tremendously.
Better Safe Than Sued by Jack Crabtree. Student pastors and youth workers don’t always like the word “safety.” It’s an area that is often times overlooked for the sake of a crazy game or thrilling activity. Crabtree says, “Safety is one of the last concerns discussed as youth activities are planned and implemented” (page 13). However, one of our top priorities in student ministry should be the safety of the students God has placed under our care. We know the top priority is helping students come to know Jesus and grow in a relationship with Him, but another serious priority is keeping those students we are trying to reach safe. Crabtree says, “In addition to the important job of communicating the Christian message to young people, a youth ministry leader must also provide a safe, responsible environment” (page 20). In this book Crabtree helps student pastors understand the importance of safety and helping them stay away from any form of lawsuit or negative experience because safety was not a concern. I liked the wide range of topics regarding safety Crabtree covers in this book. Everything from driving and using vans and buses to sexual misconduct is discussed in this book. Also, there are some great chapters on safety regarding mission trips, retreats, and seasonal sports. There is also a very helpful chapter on bullying. This is one of those student ministry books that I believe every student pastor should read. It will make you a better student pastor and will help you create a ministry that is not only fun (which we all want), but also safe.
Up next on my reading list is Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels and A Fresh Look at the Book of Jonah by Greg Laurie. I also plan to finish Seven Men by Eric Metaxas and The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer soon.
Gospel 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.
The 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.
The Other Preacher in Lynchburg by John Killinger. I 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.
A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll is one of my favorite writers. I usually try and read his books when they come out so when I heard about this one awhile back I knew I needed to grab a copy. I’m very glad I did. A Call to Resurgence is an interesting book in that Driscoll covers a lot of ground. Everything from surveying modern culture, tribalism, sexuality, the Holy Spirit, and more. Much of what Driscoll writes is nothing new. It’s stuff he has been saying via speaking and writing for years. However, the timing of this book is perfect. Our culture is rapidly changing and become more and more anti-Christian. With that wave coming and coming fast, we as Christians need not to run in fear, but hold tight to what we believe and move forward with the life-changing truth of the Gospel. That is what Driscoll calls for in this book. He reminds us of where we have been as a culture and where we are going, but more importantly reminds Christians what we believe and what God calls us to be and do. In Driscoll words the book is “for those ready to dig in and hang on…this book is an unflinching look at what we’re up against and what it will take to not just survive but to thrive and accomplish the mission God has given us to extend a hand of rescue to those drowning all around us. It is a call not of retreat but to resurgence” (page 29).
The Judgment Seat of Christ by Samuel Hoyt. One of my favorite topics to study when it comes to eschatology (the study of end times) is the judgment seat of Christ. However, not many books have been written specifically on the judgment seat of Christ. Most of the time it is simply just given a section within a systematic theology book. Hoyt even points out that “the doctrine of the judgment seat of Christ often has been denied or relegated to minimal consideration under the subject of a general judgment” (page 13). He furthers explain this idea of a general judgment in chapter 2 of this book where he explains the proponents of this theory “believe that there will be one final judgement at the consummation of the world. At this time all people of all ages, both believers and unbelievers, will be simultaneously resurrected and judged. At this event the righteous will receive reward and the unrighteous will be condemned to eternal punishment” (page 17). However, the Bible speaks much about different future judgments and is clear that believers will one day stand at the judgment seat of Christ. Hoyt writes this book to support the judgment seat of Christ and give the reader a thorough understanding of what the Bible says about it. He does everything from explain the historical background of what was going on when Biblical writers like Paul mentioned the judgment seat of Christ. He also explains the nature, purpose, extent, and rewards of the judgment seat of Christ. The thesis that Hoyt sticks to throughout this book is “the judgment seat of Christ is a most solemn evaluation at which there will be no judicial condemnation, nor will there be any judicial punishment for the believer’s sins, whether confessed or unconfessed, but rather commendation according to the faithfulness of the Christian’s life” (page 15). Throughout this book Hoyt supports that thesis with solid Biblical research and exegesis. If you want to learn more about the judgment seat of Christ than I recommend this book.
Disciples Are Made Not Born by Walter Henrichsen. This is a book that was originally published in 1974, but is still a very good read for Christians today. The whole idea of this book is discipleship. Henrichsen spends the first part of this book talking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. In the second part of the book Henrichsen talks about how Christians should share the Gospel and disciple others. He explains how Christians should practice evangelism and then help those they reach with the Gospel start to grow in their faith. Chapter by chapter, he goes through certain topics and things Christians needs to communicate to newer Christians in order to help them grow. This part of the book is extremely practical and contains a ton of great points on discipling new Christians. This is a short book that I recommend to anyone who is interested in becoming a more fully devoted follower of Jesus and want to help others follow Him as well.
Up next on my reading list is Gospel by J.D. Greear and Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon Fee.
Leaders are readers. As leaders, we hear and know that phrase well. But reading takes time and discipline that sometimes we just don’t have enough of. We have a list of books we want to read, but our schedules are so packed we don’t know when we will ever have time read them. For some of us, we just struggle with the discipline of sitting down long enough to read a few pages of a book much less an entire book. But if leaders want to be better leaders than they need to be readers. I want to share a few tips on how you as a leader, or as someone who may just wants to read, can read more books.
Make an effort to read at least 30 minutes a day. In college I had a friend who would read books left and right on top of his required reading for classes. At the time, I was struggling just to keep up with what I had to read for classes and the thought of reading books outside of that seemed impossible. One day he told me how he did it. He said he simply makes himself sit down for 30 minutes a day and read. Sometime he may go over that, but he would make himself read for at least 30 minutes. It sounded simple enough so I gave it a shot. To my surprise it worked! So much so, I still use this principle today. I have a sticky note on the wall near my desk in my office that says “30 min a day” to remind me. Leaders are usually very busy people, but reading 30 minutes a day is manageable and not hard to do. Give it a shot! You will be surprised at how many books you can work through if you read at least 30 minutes a day.
Understand the different ways you can read. There are many ways you can read. I recently have started trying to understand more about this and the different ways to read. What helped me was a recent article I ran across on Tim Challies site entitled “7 Different Ways to Read a Book.” I have learned the value in not reading every book the same. Based on the book and why you may be reading it, you may have to change up the way you read it. I would encourage you to look over the seven different ways you can read a book from the Challies article and apply that to your reading.
Always have a book with you. This is another tip I picked up in college, but this one came from one of my professors. He was teaching a class on Acts and part of the required reading he assigned was a commentary on the book of Acts. You normally don’t sit down with a commentary and read it cover to cover. But for this class we were required to do just that. The commentary he had us read was a pretty technical commentary so it was a pretty heavy thing to read through. He knew it was not an easy assignment and it would take a long time. Right after he told us about this assignment during the first class he said the key to reading a lot is to always have a book with you. He told us how he would always be carrying a book with him so even if he had a 5 minute window of time he could read. I applied that and finished that commentary quicker than I thought I would have. I still do this as well today. It’s a simple thing many people often don’t think about. Carry a book with you and pull it out when you have a few minutes here and there.
Reading is an essential part of growing as a leader. However, reading takes time and discipline. I have found that making time to read each day for at least 30 minutes, understanding different ways to read, and always having a book with me has helped me not only become a better reader, but has helped me read more books.
I enjoy reading and writing reviews of what I have read here on my site. However, I do not always review every book I read. Some books I simply read and put them on the shelve. But in an effort to review and recommend more books here on my site I will be posting “mini-reviews” from time to time of recent books I have read. So today I want to share some quick reviews of three books I have recently finished.
Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick. Crash the Chatterbox was a good read. I read a chapter a day during my devotional time and learned a lot about how Satan and his lies can cause me to loose focus on my Savior and His promises. Furtick is one of my favorite preachers to listen to and I have enjoyed reading his books. In this book Furtick considers some of the “chatter” Christians hear in their heads from Satan that often times trips them up and causes them to fail. He gives Biblical principles in how to overcome the “chatter” and reminds readers of the promises of God. This was a really easy read that I would recommend to anyone that is looking for a book to help them in their spiritual growth. Overcoming the lies of the enemy is important if we want to believe and live out the promises of God for our lives.
Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples by Duffy Robbins. When it comes to youth ministry, I love reading and learning from Duffy Robbins. This guys has been around for a long time and is full of youth ministry related wisdom. It’s evident from his books (and when you hear him speak) that he loves Jesus and teenagers. He is also passionate about helping youth pastors follow the Great Commission in making disciples, which is what this book if all about. In this book, Robbins shares how you can build an effective youth ministry that builds teenage disciples. This by far was one of the best youth ministry books I have ever read. It was practical, but very theologically sound. Robbins doesn’t just share how to attract teenagers, but how to pour into them and help them become fully-devoted disciples of Jesus. I really enjoyed chapters 2 and 3. In chapter 2 Robbins talks about how youth ministry is more about the youth pastors relationship with Jesus than anything else. Then in chapter 3 Robbins talks about how youth ministry must be incarnational. With Jesus ministry as the blueprint, Robbins helps youth workers see the important of being with teenagers and how healthy relationships with teenagers make for great ministry. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone in youth ministry both full-time or as a volunteer.
Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger. We need Gospel-centered local churches. Not many pastors (or Christians for that matter) would disagree with this statement. But what does a Gospel-centered local church look like? How does a Gospel-centered church operate? Those are the kinds of questions this book addresses. The local church is all about Jesus. He built it, runs it, and owns it. The Gospel, the good news of what God did through Jesus, is what should drive the church. The Gospel, the person of Jesus, should be at the center of it all. The first few chapters (chapters 1-5) unpacks this truth while the last section (chapters 6-12) get more practical in dealing with how the Gospel impacts everything from church leadership, ministry, preaching, and contextualization. I really enjoyed chapter 8 and what the writers had to say about children and student ministry. As well as chapter 9 and the discussion on what is Biblical, Jesus-centered leadership. I’d recommend this book for anyone who is in church leadership and is passionate about building a Gospel-centered church.
I’m currently reading The Judgment Seat of Christ by Samuel Hoyt and plan to start reading Perry Noble’s new book Overwhelmed this week. Reviews coming soon.