Hudson Taylor On Love

“One thing, and one thing only, will carry men through all, and make and keep them successful; the love of Christ constraining and sustaining them is the only power. Not our love to Christ, nor, perhaps, even Christ’s love to us personally; rather His love to poor ruined sinners in us. Many waters will not quench that love, nor floods drown it. Pray that this love may be in us…”

This is Hudson Taylor, as quoted in ‘By Love Compelled‘ by Marshall Broomhall, p12-13.

Recently Read: June 2017

I’ve been holiday and managed to finish a couple of books. Here’s some thoughts about them.

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Killing Calvinism: How To Kill A Perfectly Good Theology From The Inside by Greg Dutcher

Now here is a book for Calvinists.

If you’re wanting to explore what Calvinism is then go elsewhere, just as the author says in his introduction. But, if you’re a Calvinist who doesn’t want to be a tool then please read this book. It will be very beneficial for you.

It’s a short book, around 100 pages. There are 8 chapters, each outlining how to ruin Calvinism and its appeal. Implied in each chapter is a call to gracious humility, calling Calvinists to be more generous and winsome in communicating and teaching biblical doctrine. At the end of each chapter there is an appropriate prayer to pray as well.

It’s part biographical, which adds to its readability.

I thought is was worth the read.

“The sovereignty of God is truly awesome in its power to put new life into the sinner’s soul. But God saved us to “see and savor” much more than just his sovereignty. While relishing the sovereignty of God in salvation is good and healthy, relishing only God’s sovereignty is unhealthy and lopsided…This world desperately needs to see a robust, healthy Calvinism that celebrates the fullness of God’s ways and works – not a lopsided Christian who cannot get off the hobbyhorse of God’s sovereignty.” (p42-43)

Changing The World: Through Effective Youth Ministry by Ken Moser

I was gifted this book at Christmas off the back of a fellow Youth Minister’s recommendation. I finally got around to reading it and I would recommend it to others.

This is really a foundational youth ministry textbook. You could use it in the classroom, with an intern, or with a group of youth leaders.

There’s 15 chapters, making up 150-odd pages.

The author’s contention is that all youth ministry should be focussed on discipleship. The focus of any church-based youth ministry should be targeting those who are part of the church, such as teenagers of church families. This begins with developing a group, no matter how large or small, that grows through the teaching of God’s Word and community together. From this foundation the youth ministry grows organically through the evangelism and mission of those within the youth ministry itself.

I tend to agree with the majority of what Ken Moser, the author, writes. He goes hard against an entertainment model of youth ministry that essentially means the church is running a baby-sitting club on Friday nights. However, he goes so hard against it that at times it feels like this model of youth ministry would be the most boring thing ever. I’m not convinced that youth ministry is solely bible studies with light refreshments and the odd social tacked on once every few months.

In case I’m being too unfair, I do think it lays out a good foundation for discipleship and rightly highlights the need for strategic youth ministry. There are also a few resources provided in the latter chapters to help someone fresh in running a youth ministry.

It would make my top 5 books on youth ministry.

“As I reflect on youth ministry, I am absolutely convinced that ministry to young people is about grabbing hold of this world with the gospel of Christ, shaking it alive and placing it on the road toward eternal life. In short, youth ministry is about changing the world for Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. There is an urgency to our job, be clear on this.” (pXII)

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller

I’m blown away by this book and I haven’t even finished it yet. In fact, I don’t think I’m even a third of the way through it.

This book is simply making the case that speaking and acting for justice in our world is a natural part of what it means to be a Christian. Whether it is an international cause or simply caring for your neighbour, the bible speaks constantly of the need to care for others and help meet their needs.

Already I am heavily convicted by this book. It is deeply biblical and provides an excellent case for compassion ministry, particularly through the church.

I look forward to finishing this one and seeing what happens in my own life in response to it.

“A lack of justice is a sign that the worshippers’ hearts are not right with God at all, that their prayers and all their religious observance are just filled with self and pride.” (p50)

“The disposition of one’s possessions signifies the disposition of one’s heart.” (p51)

“Anyone who has truly been touched by the grace of God will be vigorous in helping the poor.” (p54)

“The Biblical perspective sees sexual immorality and material selfishness as both flowing from self-centredness rather than God-centredness.” (p55)

This has now gone on longer than I had hoped. Anyway, I also attempted to read The Messiah Code, a novel written by Michael Cordy. I tried. I really did. I made it to page 80 and gave it back to the op shop. It wasn’t great.

Have you read anything interesting lately?

Lloyd-Jones On Prayer

mljlifeinspiritIn 1952-1953 Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a number of expositions on John 17. These have been put together in a book called “Life In The Spirit: Classic Studies In John 17”. Although, it now looks like its been retitled and republished as “The Assurance Of Our Salvation“. In his second exposition, “Why Pray?” there are some terrific quotes about prayer worth being reminded of here.

“We might have considered a man very saintly because his will was conforming to the will of God, and because he meditated about these things and because his supreme desire was to live to the glory of God. Well, you might say, such a man would have much less need of prayer than anybody else, but it is not the case. Look at the most outstanding godly men and women, how often they spent much more time in prayer than anybody else. They did not just passively wait for God’s will to be done, no, they, more than anybody else, went, rather, and talked to God. And as you proceed to read the history of the church throughout the centuries, you will find exactly the same thing. Whether he belongs to the Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant Church, it is always the hallmark of a saint that he is a great man of prayer. John Wesley used to say that he had a very poor opinion of a Christian who did not spend at least four hours in prayer every day, and that is but a typical statement of God’s outstanding people in the church through the centuries.”

(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p26)

“You show me a man who does not pray very much and I will tell you the real problem of that man. It is that he does not know God, he does not know God as his Father. That is the trouble. The problem is not that he is not a moral man, or that he is not a good man. He can be highly moral, he may be very faithful in Christian church work, there many be nothing he is not prepared to do, but if he does not pray, I tell you that the essence of that man’s trouble is that he does not know God as his Father. For those who know God best are the ones who speak to him most of all.”

(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p29)

“Let me put it like this: the saints always prayed to God, and our Lord supremely did so, because they believed in God’s power, because they believed in God’s ability to help, and, above all, because they believed in God’s willingness and readiness to help. That is tremendously important. They, of everybody, knew the power of God, yes, but the world and its trials tend to shake our confidence in him and there is no better way of reminding ourselves of the power and the greatness of God, his ability and his readiness to help, that to go and talk to him; that is why the saints always fly to prayer. ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe (Proverbs 18:10). In other words, the saint rushes to God in prayer and reminds himself of these things.”

(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p31)

Growing Young – Final Reflections

This is post nine in a series of reflections on the book Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover And Love Your Church. For an introduction to the series please read part one and continue reading the reflections in part two, three , fourfivesixseven, and eight.


Over three months ago I started a series of reflections on the book ‘Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover And Love Your Church’. The sentences have been underlined, the pages have been marked, and the book has now been read. Each reflection worked through each chapter, giving thought to the main research and learnings from the Fuller Youth Institute team. Much has been learnt and there continues to be much to learn from this work.

This final post about Growing Young seeks to evaluate the book and the research as a whole. While each chapter has its own learnings it is valuable to end this series with a broader scope, looking at what to take away and what to leave behind.

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From the outset it is important to say that this book needs to be read for what it is. It is a book summarising research on what keeps ‘young people’ at churches. Despite the title’s byline it isn’t seeking to push a particular youth ministry philosophy. Furthermore, the research cuts across denominational and theological lines because it is summarising the results of said research.

At the same time, because of the way this research has been put together it can come across pragmatic in nature. The main point of each chapter implies what churches should focus on, implication being that overtime a church may well ‘grow young’. For example, in the chapter ‘Unlocking Keychain Leadership’ the main idea is to equip and grow young people to be leaders in key areas of responsibility. In ‘Fuel a Warm Community’ the emphasis is to be a church that is genuinely caring of students in every principle and program. In the chapter ‘Prioritising Young People (and Families) Everywhere’ the key idea is is to look at the structures and systems within the church to help facilitate integrated ministry and partnering with parents. The inference being that by doing these things your church is more likely to ‘grow young’.

However, the research findings doesn’t mean that a church should begin implementing a certain structure, program, or idea for a select period of time. No, this book is really talking about cultural change. This cultural change is focussed on growing young as a church and the principles behind it are based on the solid research from the FYI. To implement this kind of cultural change will take many years to implement and be a painful process for many congregations.

Another way this book is pragmatic is at the end of each chapter. Helpfully, the authors have included some reflection questions and ideas at the end of each section for reflection and application. By doing his the book becomes a help in encouraging churches to grow young.

In one sense Growing Young doesn’t promote a particular ministry philosophy but the way it is written means that there is a ‘system’ that can be formulated through it.

I have written extensively about the strengths of the book and each chapter in my earlier reflections. So it is worth asking how this book could have been more helpful, particularly for those of us in youth and young adult ministry.

First, I’d say, and say this very gently, that when reading a book like this those of us in youth ministry can be prone to affirming everything without sifting it through the lens of the Bible. Of course, there is the assumption that everyone who reads this is a professing believer. Yet, as I’ve pondered this research further I’ve come away thinking ‘so what?’

Of course, we want more young people in churches. We want young people to be involved in the things we do at church. We want young people to meet Jesus and know that they can have a relationship with him. We want young people to grasp the Gospel and realise that God is God and we are not. We want young people to understand that God is a personal God whom we worship, enjoy, and follow.

The danger with a book like this is that we can take the ideas, insights, and inspirations and attempt to make the church younger without making it more faithful.

I can walk away from this book thinking that my youth and young adult ministry can get bigger and more influential within the church by implementing these things. Instead I want my youth and young adult ministries to know Jesus more and grow in faith and godliness. Why can’t we use the Bible as the ‘strategy’ rather than seeking a temporary solution that seems to fit with the cultural milieu?

This is not to say culture is unimportant. I’m not saying that. We are living in a culture which requires a certain cultural response. But, if we believe that it is the Word of God that speaks, and that through that speaking God creates, and that through that creation young people’s hearts are opened to the Good News of what Jesus has done, then this becomes a central cog in the youth ministry wheel. Off this cog are the systems and processes and ideas that this book talks about.

So how does this research affect me as a Youth and Young Adults Pastor going forward?

  • This book has provided excellent food for thought.
  • It has given a framework to assess the youth and young adult ministry I currently lead.
  • The emphasis continues to be on the long-term, not on short-term fixes.
  • The research provides data regarding youth ministries and churches.
  • It continues to affirm the much needed work of youth ministry within churches.

Finally, before this post gets far too long, this is an excellent resource for any youth leader, parent, church leader or Pastor in any church. For those who’ve been in the youth ministry world with a discipleship and mission mindset there won’t be too many surprises, but the framing of these things is excellent. I’d encourage you to read the book and talk with someone on the leadership team at your church about it.

Further Resources:

The NYMC Podcast = Episode 15 + 16 – This two-part podcast delves into each chapter of Growing Young and discusses the research at length.

Book review of Growing Young by Seth Stewart

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast (106): Kara Powell On How Many Average Churches Are Actually Reaching Millennials

Book reflection by Trevin Wax

My Top Books of 2016

This is the week in the blogosphere where all bloggers release those awful list posts, humbly bragging about what they read this year. It’s an easy post to write, tickles the ego, and promotes faux intelligence. It also makes you feel bad for not achieving your own reading goals, and a reminder of all those other goals you failed to complete this year.

Well, here’s another.

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For me, 2016 was a horrendous reading year. I only finished 11 books. I won’t give you my excuses but will put reading back into its rightful position in 2017.

So for the third year in a row, and in no particular order, here are my top books of 2016:

Do More Better: A Practical Guide To Productivity by Tim Challies

Here’s a little gem, at just over 100 pages, which helps you think through your own productivity system. Much of the advice given can be applied to the different spheres in which you find yourself – work, family, personal, recreation etc. It just helps having a good system and the one by Challies’ outlined here is a good fit for me.

Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson

If you want a good primer on youth ministry, giving theological grounding and practical outworking of that theology, then this is a good book. Every Senior Pastor and Youth Pastor should read this. If you’re in youth ministry as a volunteer it will give you a good idea of the foundational thinking your Youth Pastor should be thinking through, as well as providing you with excellent training in the process.

Each chapter is about a particular topic: making disciples in youth ministry, teaching the Bible, building relationships, forming a gospel-community, partnering with parents, how to make youth ministry inter-generational, small groups, leadership training, music and worship, retreats and events, evangelism, serving the poor, and short-term missions. There’s a lot there and it’s all very solid.

This book would now make my Top 3 Books for Youth Ministry.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life And Relevance For The 21st Century by Christopher Catherwood

There is something about Martyn Lloyd-Jones that draws me to read about his life and ministry. His own writings and sermons are invaluable themselves, but so are the reflections of others about his life. In this book Lloyd-Jones’s eldest grandson gives a brief precis about his life before delving into topics missed by other biographers. There are the chapters to expect, one on preaching and another on the centrality of Scripture. But, there are also chapters on home life, and how he is relevant and appealing to Millennials and the 21st century.

It’s not a long book and is easy to digest. It’s worth the read.

Luther on The Christian Life: Cross & Freedom by Carl R. Trueman

The ‘On The Christian Life‘ series is a terrific series for those of us that enjoy biography and historical theology. Bringing this together with Martin Luther, one of the most significant figures in Christian history, Carl Trueman does an exceptional job. Albeit I’m a bit of a Trueman fanboy, but he does do a great job in outlining Luther’s life and theological growth, centred on his theology of the cross.

Chapters cover Luther’s life, the Word, liturgy, baptism and mass, righteousness, and living and dying in the world.

Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover And Love Your Church by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin

I can’t really go through this list without mentioning Growing Young. This is the book I’ve spent the most time in this year, thinking it through and reflecting upon it. To get a better idea of the book you can read all nine reflection posts on this blog if you’re so inclined!

The main premise of this volume is what keeps young people in church. Much has been written about why young people are leaving the church, but this is a piece of research summarised into six core reasons why young people stay.

This is a book for anyone who works with young people in churches. From senior leadership to volunteer leaders to parents and grandparents, this is a good resource to help you think through how to integrate young people in your church.


Well, that’s the top 5 for 2016. If you’d like to read 2014 and 2015 then go ahead and do so.

I hope you’re 2016 reading was better than mine, but if it wasn’t then why not try this awesome reading challenge for 2017?

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Growing Young – Growing Young In Your Context

This is post eight in a series of reflections on the book Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover And Love Your Church. For an introduction to the series please read part one and continue reading the reflections in part two, three , fourfivesix and seven.


The final chapter!

To conclude Growing Young the authors provide a chapter designed to help churches, pastors, parents, families, and anyone interested apply the research to their own context.

Having made my way through the chapters it’s become clear that different churches will apply this in different ways. Every church I know of would agree that they seek to grow young people in faith and number. The decline in young adults continuing on in the faith has been dramatic over the past 20 years and many churches are grasping at straws, willing to try anything to hold on to the young people they have. Yet, if anyone reading this work comes to the conclusion that it’s an easy task then they haven’t understood the research or church culture. The process to reverse this trend and begin growing faithful young adults will require years of constancy and faithfulness.

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In this final chapter Growing Young gives a broad process to help you or your church work improve its engagement of young people. There are five steps, outlined below:

First, listen.

Start conversations with everyone in the church. Listen. Listen to the kids, the young people, the leaders, the families, the parents, the young adults, the older people, the community, the whole congregation. Everyone. Go ask questions about how the church should or could engage with young people. You might see the problem clearly, others might not. You might understand the need and urgency, others might not. You might believe there is a massive problem, others might not. Begin with conversation.

Second, tell stories of future hope.

There will be no movement without a vision for the future. After listening and conversing with others the problem and challenge of growing young will appear. With this in the forefront of people’s mind it will be time to form a way forward. Begin by telling stories of what could be. Begin dreaming. Begin by white-boarding ideas. Let these dreams, ideas, and possibilities form into stories for the future. All good stories have a moment where there is a problem to overcome. Pitch the problem, pitch the solution. Tell stories of the future hope that could be.

Third, list the challenges.

There are going to be heaps of challenges. There is the problem that the church you’re in may not be growing young but the bigger challenges will come when you begin to move forward in seeking cultural change. The challenges that will occur will be to do with worship style, lack of interest, lack of volunteers and leaders, a large generation gap, and a lack of resources. These and more will make the task a tough one. But it is patience and persistence, all part of the journey itself, which will help to bring about change.

Fourth, experiment at the margins.

Someone once said, “To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” Churches are often risk adverse. In order to grow young as a congregation risk will need to be taken. The place and way to start this is with those on the margins of the church. Those ministries and programs not seen as the backbone of the church is where the possibilities begin. Is there a ministry that could use a little bit of risk-taking? Is there something that young people could takeover or drive themselves? In the listening phase was there something found that the young people could be directing?

Fifth, be patient.

I was at an event last week with some experienced pastors and church leaders from around the state. During my conversation with one elder statesman of the Victorian church I asked how long he thought a certain cultural change might take to implement in a local church. He responded with the sides of his mouth upturned and a glint in his eye, “Oh, you’ll probably see fruit at around the 20-year mark”. And that’s what it seems to take in the church of God. It is long-haul ministry and long-term thinking that will bring about faithful expressions of discipleship and maturity of faith. Pray hard, preach hard, and be patient, realising it is God doing the growth.

Growing Young – Be The Best Neighbours

This is post seven in a series of reflections on the book Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover And Love Your Church. For an introduction to the series please read part one and continue reading the reflections in part two, three , fourfive and six.


In these first few months of being involved in the life and ministry of Rowville Baptist Church I’ve been blown away at the commitment to the local community. Part of the culture of the church is to serve the local community through its time, money, facilities, and people resources. The more I’ve seen the various programs and people in action the more I’ve seen the body of Christ neighbouring well.

So far I’ve seen a fortnightly dinner put on for those in the community that need a feed, a week-long school holiday program, a drop-in centre for those who need to chat and some pantry supplies, and a twice weekly breakfast served at a local school. In coming months there will be a Christmas Day lunch held at the church for those with no place to go and a nearly weeklong service ‘camp’ that sees young people lead and serve the local community in practical ways.

This culture, this DNA, is what the final chapter summarising the Growing Young findings is all about.

It seems that those churches who are good neighbours to their local community are more likely to ‘grow young’ than those who aren’t. 

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Growing Young suggests it is this kind of culture that keeps young people at church. On one hand there is the good teaching that comes from taking Jesus’ message seriously. On the other hand there is the fact that young people seek to be involved in practically serving others together.

“…churches that grow young recognize the careful dance that values both fidelity to Scripture’s commands for holiness and knowing and graciously loving their neighbors. This dance affects how they serve, pursue social justice, help teenagers and emerging adults find their calling, interact with popular culture, and respond to heated cultural issues. Much more than developing detailed policies or releasing theological position papers, these churches train and infuse their young people with an integrated discipleship that enables them to thrive in our complex world.”

Reading this chapter didn’t feel like I had to take sides in some kind of evangelism versus social justice debate. No, this chapter brought together the first and second commandments – to love God and love others – in a way that upheld the proclamation of the Gospel and good works. Yet, it did highlight the fact that young people are attracted to that which deals with the physical and practical needs of people and communities.

A second area this chapter highlighted was the ability for growing young churches to converse well with the tough topics. You know, sexuality and gender, refugees and immigration, alcohol and drugs, marriage, relationships and divorce, suicide and mental health, death and grieving, calling and vocation. These topics can be challenging for any person to converse about, let alone a church. But what Growing Young has found is that those churches willing to converse about such topics go a long way in helping young people grow and stick at faith. It is often the process and the discussion about these topics that is more helpful than the answers themselves.

How then does this chapter help in thinking through youth and young adult ministry? 

First, recognise young people are action-orientated and want to be part of something that helps the local community and beyond.

Second, provide time and people to walk alongside young people as they explore answers to the deeper questions of life and society.

Third, ask questions of the young people already connected to your church and of the local community to understand their culture and passions.

Fourth, teach and show a gospel-ethic providing a balanced diet of Biblical teaching and good works.

Fifth, spend a period of time actually serving your neighbours well, meeting some needs they have.

May your light shine before others so that they see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:16).