Preaching by Tim Keller. Before reading this book it had been awhile since I had read a book on the topic of preaching. Since preaching the Bible is something I do regularly in my role I was excited to pick up a new book on the topic. I gained a lot of wisdom and practical insights from this book and I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves in a preaching role to read it. I’d also go as far as to say that all Christians should read this book since “preaching” is not just preparing and delivering a formal sermon. All Christians are called to proclaim the Gospel whether that’s at work, online, or in front of a large crowd. However, the majority of this book is aimed at those of us in vocational preaching roles. So this book is helpful to all Christians, but primarily for those in vocational preaching roles. Throughout this book there are several themes and main ideas that Keller covers. First, Keller points out the need for expository preaching and letting the Scriptures lead the way in preaching. This is primarily the focus in chapter one. Keller says, “I would say that expository preaching should provide the main diet of preaching for a Christian community” (page 32). Keller follows this statement up with a few reasons why he believes this and also a few dangers to avoid when doing expository preaching. Second, Keller rightfully argues that the Christ and the Gospel must be at the center of every sermon and should be preached from every text. Keller spends a good amount of time explaining how this can and should be done in preaching. Third, Keller highlights cultural narratives that will impact the way we preaching to an unbelieving world. This was a large part of the book but a very helpful section. Keller helps us understand the cultural narratives that impact preaching in our cultural context and shares practical ways we can preach God’s Word by engaging those narratives. Overall this was a fantastic book that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to share Christ well in our culture.
Creating a Lead Small Culture by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, and Elle Campbell. Every now and then I read a church ministry or student ministry book that causes me to rethink and evaluate everything I am doing in my student ministry context. This was one of those books. I’m grateful the student ministry that God allows me to lead is healthy and has a good small group structure in place. However, we have areas we need to improve and our small group structure and strategy has some holes. This book has helped me strengthen our small group structure and better develop a team of leaders who serve students in a small group context. The whole point of a “lead small culture” is to have students (or kid if you’re in children’s ministry, which this book is for as well) cared for and ministered to in the context of small groups. Relationship and life change happens when students are connected with an adult that loves Jesus and cares for them. Real teaching, mentoring, and modeling happens in circles not in a crowd. This book walks through three main ways to create a lead small culture: improve the structure, empower the leader, create the experience. The book is filled with practical wisdom, insights, and experiences from other ministry leaders as they share how they have created a lead small culture in their context. If you’re a ministry leader that oversees small groups or just wants to make small groups more of a vital part of your church than you need to read this book. It’s simple, practical, but has the potential to change the way you do ministry to students and kids.
Get Out by Alvin and Josh Reid. One of the common struggles local student pastors face is the struggle to get outside of their office and church walls and into the community where students are. That’s the issue this book addresses. This book is a practical book for student pastors who want to get onto their local school campuses and into the community where their students and their friends are. Alvin and Josh Reid say this about their book: “This book serves as a primer on student minister focused specifically on getting out of the church building and into the community to impact it for Christ” (page 15). This book helps student pastors realize a much needed shift is called for in student ministry today. We must see our ministry as bigger than our church walls and not just focus on our program and the students we have coming. We must go to the students that are not coming. We must meet them on their turf. We must reach students where they are at. In addition to all of that, this book is filled with practical advice from other student pastors and what they have done to get out and reach students in their communities. I’d encourage every student pastor to read this book. It’s challenging and will help you think about how you can get out and serve students in your community.
I’m currently reading 30 Events that Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky and plan to review that in my next “Books I’ve Read Recently” post.
Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear. I have read a lot of books recently and this one was by far one of may favorites. I’ve always enjoyed reading J.D.’s books and they have played a big part in shaping my faith and ministry. In this book J.D. deals with the topic of the Holy Spirit and how believers have the advantage of not having Jesus beside them (like the disciples in the Gospels) but instead, through the Spirit, they have Jesus presence inside them. Not only that, but J.D. helps believers understand how they can experience the Holy Spirit in their relationship with God. J.D. says, “The Holy Spirit tends to be the forgotten member of the Trinity. Most Christians know he’s there, but they are unclear about exactly what he does of how to interact with him-or if that’s even possible. Yet something was so important about the Holy Spirit that Jesus told his disciples it was to their advantage that he go away-if his departure meant the Spirit came. The Spirit’s presence inside them, he said, would be better than himself beside them” (page 13). This is one of the most insightful and practical books on the subject of the Holy Spirit that I have ever read. It has a great balance of theological content (which is very much needed in the discussion of the Holy Spirit) and practical application (which is just as much needed in this topic) in regards to the Holy Spirit and how Christians can experience the Spirit’s ministry in their life. J.D. does a great job in this book building a foundation of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit and explaining how believers can experience and seek the Holy Spirit. This is a great book I would recommend to anyone who wants to understand the Holy Spirit better and how they can experience him more in their relationship with God.
Prayer by Tim Keller. Prayer is an area of my Christian life where I struggle the most. I go through seasons where I feel like I’m a “strong prayer,” but many times I feel like I am coming up very short in this area. This is one of the reasons I wanted to read this book. Also, I haven’t read many books devoted entirely to prayer so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. Keller has managed to put together one of, if not the most, thorough books on the topic of prayer. This book really does serve as a modern day handbook for what prayer is and how does one go about practicing prayer. The first part of the book is very academic and philosophical. Keller does a great job as painting the landscape of how people and religious groups view prayer. But this isn’t where Keller spends most of his time in this book. Once Keller helps the reader establish a definition and view of what Biblical prayer is in the Christian life he quickly moves towards helping them see how Christians can practice prayer. The rest of the book, and majority of it then, is a practical guide on how to practice prayer. Keller explores the prayer habits of early church fathers as well as walking through many Scripture passages on prayer. He also offers many practical tips on how Christians can practice prayer in their daily lives. If you want to grow in your understanding of prayer and how to practice it, read this book.
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. I haven’t read many marriage books (even though there are many out there right now I want to read), but out of the ones I have read this was has been my favorite. I read this book along with a few other men in a men’s group I am a part of at my church. I really enjoyed this book because of Keller’s approach to the topic of marriage and how to do marriage well. He quickly admits and helps the reader see that marriage is impossible to do well apart from God. Throughout the book Keller keeps the Gospel at the center as he shares how marriage is only possible through having a personal relationship with God through the Gospel that helps you truly love and serve your spouse. Keller spends a great amount of time explaining and applying the main Scripture passages on marriage. I also enjoyed how his wife wrote parts of the book and brought another persecutive to this topic. I believe this is a book everyone who is married (or one day hopes to married) should read. It’s practical but always keeps God and the Gospel at the center, which is the only way to do marriage well.
I am currently reading What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung and 30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. I plan to review those when I am done reading them.
Last week in our student ministry we finished our last teaching series for the school year. Each school year we try and cover at least two books of the Bible (usually an Old Testament and New Testament book). Earlier this year we went through the book of Jonah, which was one of my favorite teaching series of all time, and for the past six weeks we have been going through the book of Acts. You might be wondering how we fit the entire book of Acts into just six weeks. I’m glad you asked. That’s why I am writing this post.
To cover the book of Acts in six weeks we combined two things: teaching and personal reading. Lets talk first about teaching. Over the six weeks students heard talks from various parts of Acts. I didn’t just randomly chose parts of Acts to teach on. Instead I looked through the book of Acts and picked out six different passages that seem to be key points in the narrative but also passages that highlighted something I felt like the students in our context needed to hear and understand. The six places in Acts we taught from were: Intro, Promise, and Call (Acts 1:1-11), Early Church (Acts 4:23-37), Stephen Martydom (Acts 6:5, 8-7:60), Paul’s Conversion (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-9, 15), Paul and Silas Rescued from Prison (Acts 16:22-34), and Paul in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). Feel free to click here to listen to these talks from our high school ministry mid-week services. There were so many more passages in Acts I wanted to cover but with only six weeks I couldn’t. That’s why we didn’t just settle with teaching from these six places in Acts and forgot the rest. Instead, as I said before, we combined the teaching with personal reading.
For the personal reading part of this series we broke down the book of Acts into a forty day reading plan. Each day had students reading about half a chapter while a few days had them reading an entire chapter. We then put this reading plan on a bookmark sized card and called it the “Acts Reading Challenge” (click here to see one of these cards that was completed by a student). We gave these out at the beginning of the series and challenged students to read the entire book of Acts on their own before the end of the series. Once completed we asked students to turn their cards back in to receive a gift. I wish I could say all our students took this challenge but some did and I couldn’t be more proud of those students that took the time to read God’s Word.
This was the first time I have ever combined teaching and personal reading for a series and I plan to do it again next time we go through a book of the Bible with our students. Like any plan there were things I liked and things I believe we did well, but there were also things that didn’t work well and we will need to adjust next time around. However, I enjoyed being able teach from specific places in the book of Acts while equipping and encouraging our students to read the rest on their own.
After taking a week off in student ministry programs due to Spring break, we returned to our nomad schedule this week and had great nights in both our middle school and high school ministries. Below are the details of what we did.
What We Did at Porch (High School)
Upfront Game: Egg Roulette. This is a Jimmy Fallon game that has been around for awhile and if you haven’t done it with your students you need to. It’s always a hit! There are a few different ways you can play this game. This is how we do it. Basically you get a bunch of eggs, boil some of them and leave some of them raw. Figure out how many rounds/students you want to use and boil enough eggs where a few people get out each round. Make sure you have it planned out so the final round has two students and out of the two eggs they must choose from one of them is boiled and the other raw. The student that gets to the end of the game without a raw egg cracked over their head wins. We had students come up in pairs and had them pick an egg to crack over their partners head. Click the link above to download the graphic we used for this game.
Worship Set List: In Tenderness He Sought Me (Citizens & Saints), Great I Am (New Life Worship), Jesus I Come (Elevation Worship), and Unstoppable God (Elevation Worship).
Teaching: We started a new series that we will be in for the next seven weeks called “Acts.” In this series we are looking at seven different passages/events from the book of Acts. Last night we looked at Acts 1:1-11 and talked about the promise of the Spirit and the call to be witnesses for Christ. We are also challenging our students to read through the book of Acts on their own within the next forty days. We gave them a “Acts Reading Challenge” bookmark sized handout that has the book of Acts broken down into forty days of reading. Click here to listen to the message.
Highlight: The highlight of the night came for me after the program was over. I saw a handful of tweets from students that talked about what they learned from the message and how much they love Porch. I love seeing that kind of stuff on their social media accounts.
What We Did at Edge (Middle School)
Upfront Game: Egg Roulette. Same as above except we did more rounds with more students.
Group Game: Birdy on a Perch. Students break up into pairs of two. One student has to be the birdy and the other has to be the perch. Have them start on opposite sides of the room (you can also have them walk in separate circles or do something else) and when you saw “birdy” they must race to find their partner. The student that is the perch must get down on one knee and the student that is the birdy must sit on the other students knee. The pair that is last to do this is out. Continue until there is one pair of students left.
Teaching: Same as above except I shortened the message a bit. Click here to listen to the message from Edge.
Highlight: Having one of our 6th grade students come up to me after to tell me he wants to read through the entire book of Acts before Sunday. We will see if he does it.
7 Men by Eric Metaxas. If you enjoy biographies this book is for you. Metaxas basically packs seven mini biographies into this one book. As the title suggests, Metaxas writes about seven men in this book: George Washingon, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson. Metaxas attempts to paint a picture of what real manhood is through the lives and accomplishes of these seven men. He says, “The idea of manhood has fallen into some confusion in the last decades. This book hopes to help correct some of that by asking and answering two vitally important questions: First, what is a man? And second, what makes a man great” (page xiii). Metaxas writes from a Christian perspective and realizes real manhood only comes in embracing God’s idea of manhood, which all these men in this book embrace and portray in their lives and accomplishments. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it for everyone, especially men, who want to get a picture of what God can do through people who yield to Him and fight for others.
And So To Bed by Andrian Reynolds. I’ll admit, I don’t embrace rest and sleep the way I should. I struggle to go to bed at night without staying awake worrying about what happened that day and what is on my plate for the next. I tend to stay up too late and struggle to wake up early. I’d rather work than sleep many times. This is an area God has been convicting me about and I am striving to grow in this area of my life. Because of that I wanted to grab a copy of this book and give it a read. As Reynolds explains in the introduction of this book there are really no Christian books on the topic of sleep. It’s an area Christians know is important but many of seem perfectly fine to not get enough sleep and don’t view it as a thing God cares much about. Reynolds says, “Sleep is of greater spiritual importance than you may have imagined, both in terms of what it does for us now, but also in terms of what it teaches us about the future” (page 10). Reynolds writes this short but pointed book with this main idea throughout: “Sleep is part of our created humanity, a good gift from God to be treasured and enjoyed; an earthly picture of a spiritual reality” (page 10). Throughout the book Reynolds makes the point clear that sleep is a something we need as humans and not only something we need, but it is a gift we can enjoy and learn from. I specifically enjoyed chapter 5 of this book where Reynolds gets very practical. He shares about why some people don’t sleep well and how it could be a medical or a spiritual issue. He also shares some practical tips on how to sleep better. Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to get a better understanding of sleep from a Biblical perspective as well as some helpful tips on how to embrace this gift God has given us.
A Fresh Look at the Book of Jonah by Greg Laurie. I decided to read this book in preparation for our Jonah series we are doing in our student ministries this month. I wanted to read a book on Jonah that was practical and insightful, but not very technical and academic heavy. I knew I would use plenty of commentaries and Bible study tools so I wanted to read something pretty simple. I found this book to not only be simple and insightful but very practical. Laurie shares, in great detail, about the story of Jonah and explains there is much more to Jonah’s story than a giant fish. Laurie helps the reader understand more about Jonah and the city of Nineveh and how God worked throughout the book of Jonah. I really enjoyed this book and it helped me get a better understanding of the story of Jonah and what I can learn from God’s working throughout the story. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to understanding the book of Jonah better and is looking for a simple yet refreshing read of how our God works in the lives of people.
Up next on my reading list is Finding Common Ground by Tim Downs and Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear. I also plan to finish The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer in the next few weeks.