Recently Read: April 2018

Here are some brief summaries of the books I’ve finished recently. There aren’t as many as last time, but range from bible commentaries to biography to sport.

Recently Read - April 2018

Ruth: The King Is Coming by Daniel I. Block

I preached through the book of Ruth in February and March. This was the main commentary I used, which was simply excellent.

Ruth: The King Is Coming by Daniel Block is part of the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament series. This particular commentary gives a good outline of all the textual, cultural, and literary issues of the book. It walks the reader through the text and its structure in a helpful way. It raises the theological issues and conclusions of the book too. It was very helpful in thinking through the book of Ruth and and a useful preaching tool.

The Message of Ruth by David J. Atkinson

This commentary is in the Bible Speaks Today series. It’s not a new commentary nor is it particularly academic. It raises some helpful thoughts regarding the book of Ruth, particularly focussed on applying the text to the reader. However, I found the application reasonably poor, and various theological aspects of the text are not dealt with at length or in needed depth.

The Blueprint: LeBron Jame, Cleveland’s Deliverance, and the Making of the modern NBA by Jason Lloyd

The writer, Jason Lloyd, has been an NBA beat journalist for years. He was the Cleveland beat writer during the time of LeBron’s coming, going, and return to the Cavs. He gives a fascinating insight into the way the club operated during this time and how the club dealt with the superstar.

While there is biographical material of LeBron himself, the real insight of the book comes in the form of team strategy. That is, the management of an NBA team and what strategic moves the back office uses to build a winning team.

This was a great book, worth reading, and great sports writing.

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

This is one of the best modern Christian books you’ll ever read.

I rate it highly. So highly that I’ve made it the first book in our church internship program.

The Prodigal God is a short book that takes the reader through the parable of The Prodigal Son. Each chapter not only reveals the content of the parable in a fresh way but is powerfully mind-blowing and heart-convicting for your soul.

If you’re looking for a great read and something that will encourage you in your Christian faith then this is well worth getting your hands on.

Packer on The Christian Life by Sam Storms

J.I. Packer is essential reading for any Christian and has been highly influential for millions of believers around the world. His best known work is Knowing God, one of his 25+ books written or contributed to. Now at over 90 years old he is no longer writing and teaching theology has he has done, but continues to impact many in the Christian faith because of his writings.

Sam Storms has written a great biography of the man, which focusses more on the way he has thought about the Christian life than about his life itself. In this way The Christian Life series is a unique contribution and well worth reading.

Storms gives one chapter to the life of the man but then spends 11 chapters on working through his Christian thought on topics like the atonement, the role of the bible, holiness, sanctification, the battle with sin, the Holy Spirit, prayer, suffering, and discerning the will of God. Each chapter is excellent and I found the chapters on the bible, sanctification, and prayer most beneficial for myself.

One interesting element of this book was reading Sam Storms articulate and reflect upon Packer’s cessationism while being a contiunationist himself. This was helpful and encouraging to see, particularly the attempt to understand Packer’s position while disagreeing with it.

Another book worth reading.

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Divine Action In Youth Ministry

One particular aspect to Andrew Root’s latest work, Faith Formation In A Secular Age, is the concept of divine action.

Divine action is God’s work in the world. It is his activity in the world through the means of the Spirit and human beings. An older generation would term this ‘God’s providence’, and Root himself uses ‘God’s transcendence’ to describe the same thing. Nevertheless, divine action is helpful in capturing the idea that God is actively at work in the world.

Divine Action In Youth Ministry

Root wants to counter the disease of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) and believes that reaffirming the concept of divine action will do just that. MTD is the idea that God wants me to be a good person (moralistic), God is a being who should help me feel good (therapeutic), and God is a concept to decorate our lives with but isn’t an agent who really does anything (deism). Divine action, and the truth that God is at work even in the ordinary lives of middle-class Westerners, is Root’s solution to the ‘D’ in MTD.

With the loss of recognising God in our lives we are left believing that God isn’t there. We are left wondering if God is actually real, and whether he does indeed care for us.

As I finished reading this book I was also working through a teaching series on the story of Ruth. While the Lord barely makes a mention throughout the four chapters, never actively speaking himself, his handiwork is clear in the lives of the characters, Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. If there is ever a book of the bible that teaches God’s divine action and transcendence in the lives of ordinary people then this is it.

When we turn to youth ministry I wonder whether we recognise the handiwork of God?

In all aspects of youth ministry in your church; with your students, with your families, with your leaders, God is at work. He is working in each of their lives and in the ministry-at-large.

And of course, it’s hard to see how God is working at times. It’s hard to see, in the moment, the ways God is comforting, strengthening, freeing, connecting, growing, and inspiring different people and their lives.

It is hard to see God at work when our eyes aren’t seeing it or our hearts aren’t feeling it.

How often we might doubt when someones say they think God is speaking to them? How often do we question whether someone is actually growing in their faith? How often do we feel disappointment over a poor conversation, or a seemingly poor youth night, or a rowdy couple of kids in our small group?

Yet despite this, God is often working while our limited perspective clouds our view of God’s divine action.

In this day and age of result driven, short-term, growth it’s hard to gain perspective. In this day where God is seen as a divine being who will only give happy, heart-warming therapeutic advice, it is no wonder we exclude the divine action of God in our own lives and the lives of others.

The bible promises that God is with us. And through his Spirit he continues to be at work. May we remember this in the excitement of summer camps and in the depths of winter lock-ins.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6:)


You can read my review of Faith Formation In A Secular Age here.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung

Most people I know live busy lives.

I live a busy life. I suspect you live a busy life.

When people ask how I’m doing I try to avoid saying, “I’m busy”.

Everyone is busy.

Everyone says they’re busy.

It’s part of life.

I could have added ‘these days’ to the end of that last sentence but I don’t think we’re living in an especially busy era. People of every age have been busy, it’s just a different type of busy. And that’s humbling. To know we’re not alone in our busyness, either in this era or another, makes us no different to anyone else. We’re ordinary, ordinarily busy.

In light of life’s busyness Kevin DeYoung has written another neat little book; this time describing his busyness journey while looking at this theme-at-large.

Crazy_Busy_Kevin_DeYoung_

In many ways he has written it for himself, and anyone else who will read it. It’s not a 10-point plan on how to get rid of busyness, but it is a 10-chapter book helping us understand more broadly why we’re busy and how to think about it.

There was a period of time there where I’d be chasing the latest productivity tool or app that would make me more effective in life and work. I think that is similar to others I know. But really, when you consider all the time wasted in fiddling around with these tools you begin to wonder whether it’s worthwhile.

I’ve found they’ve made me feel more busy that perhaps I really am.

And that’s a problem.

We sometimes believe we’re so busy when actually it is the case of having information overload and always being on the go. If we cut a couple of things out and didn’t input into our heads so much then we might find we’re not as busy as we thought.

But it’s the things that need to be cut that are the issue.

What do we prioritise? What’s important? What can’t go? What has to be prioritised?

These questions, and many more, including the issue of sleep, are thought through by DeYoung.

The final chapters really push home the point from a Christian perspective. The number one priority is our walk with the Lord.

Using the story of Mary and Martha the author outlines the main point; resting in God and at the feet of Jesus is the priority and from there our work and busyness is to flow.

He’s not being legalistic or prescriptive in how this is done. But, he certainly emphasises the good point that spending time with Jesus is important and has consequences now and in the future.

I’d highly recommend this book, particularly to anyone who finds themselves feeling busy (read: everyone). Again, it’s not a book that outlines a plan for how to get out of your busyness. It gives a broad framework for thinking through and understanding the topic and some good wisdom for stepping into that. This is one of the best parts of the book, it leaves me to make my own decisions about how to avoid over-busyness.

Here’s some quotes:

“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else.” (p32)

“Jesus understood his mission. He was not driven by the needs of others, though he often stopped to help hurting people. He was not driven by the approval of others, though he cared deeply for the lost and the broken. Ultimately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit. He was driven by his God-given mission. He knew his priorities and did not let the many temptations of a busy life deter him from his task. For Jesus that meant itinerant preaching, with devoted times of prayer, on his way to the cross.” (p56)

“The person who never sets priorities is the person who does not believe in his own finitude.” (p57)

Peter Kreeft is right: “We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.” (p83)

“The antidote to busyness of soul is not sloth and indifference. The antidote is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude, and trust in the providence of God.” (p102)

Published: Faith Formation In A Secular Age by Andrew Root

I’ve recently read Andrew Root’s, Faith Formation In A Secular Age: Responding To The Church’s Obsession With Youthfulness.

It was a dense read. As a result, it has triggered numerous thoughts about how we engage students, helping them to form faith in the current cultural era. I think this book has been very helpful in thinking through the way we approach discipleship, particularly in youth ministry. But, at the same time, I found that it raises unsatisfactory answers in its conclusions.

Having read the book, and thought through some of Root’s ideas I have written a fairly comprehensive review. It was accepted by The Gospel Coalition Australia editors and published on their site.

You can read the whole thing here.

“This has resulted with churches increasingly viewing youth ministry as a “saviour” for their church. While the church youth movement has historically been there, it is really only in the last fifty years that this area of the church has risen to the level it is today. There was actually a time when churches didn’t have a youth pastor and where the work toward the young people was driven by a group of volunteers. The striving after a pastoral staff position specifically for youth ministry is something new, relatively speaking.

A by-product of this is churches increasing their value for and commitment to keeping young people in the church. This increase in attention has also created youth ministry and youth focussed para-church organisations that seek to hold a young person in the orbit of faith. This kind of thinking hopes to see more kids, and particularly kids of church families, stay in church life instead of walking away and becoming one of the ‘Nones’ who are now self-identifying in surveys and census data. As Root remarks, “Even today, study after study in youth ministry seems to define faith primarily through institutional participation.” (p30)”

Andrew Root has also been doing the rounds on various podcast episodes. If you’d like to have a listen to what he says then head to one of these:

Youthscape are a youth work organisation in the UK and interviewed Root about his book in episode 41.

Homebrewed Christianity interviews Andrew Root about Faith Formation In A Secular Age. I haven’t listened to this but will do in coming days or weeks.

The Distillery Podcast is an initiative by Princeton Theological Seminary. They interviewed Root about this book and I found it to be a good insight into his thoughts.

When You Gonna Be A Real Pastor is a fun podcast by two youth pastors in the USA. Here they interview Andrew Root before the book was released, partly on his previous book and partly on this one.

Recently Read: March 2018

Well, reading wise, this year has started with a flurry. It seems I have completed 20 books at the time of this posting, which raises the question as to whether I can keep up the pace. The other question it raises is whether I’ll be able to retain anything I’ve read too. I’ve impressed myself with the amount of reading I’ve done.

I should clarify that about half of these books have been audiobooks, listened to at 2.0x speed, while on holiday. But that doesn’t really matter, it’s still 20 books! Who makes arbitrary rules about what can be counted and what cannot? Not me. They all count in my book. See what I did there?

Anyway, I present to you some of the fine and not so fine books I’ve reading recently.

Recently Read - March 2018

When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide To A Life Of Miracles by Bill Johnson

Is this standard pentecostal theology? If it is I’ll be happy to avoid it for the rest of my days.

Confusing, almost crazy, that’s my summary of this book.

There is a complete disregard for any consistent interpretation of Scripture, and if you do read this you will lose count of how many passages are used outside their context.

Overall I’ll be judging this one as pretty poor. Granted, I’d like to do a more comprehensive review of this book but I think I’m still recovering from reader whiplash. It is important to engage with Bill Johnson and the Bethel movement. They are a major player in world Christianity right now. Their influence is seen here in my context. But, as for this book, there is much talk of healings, miracles, the power of prayer, the power of self, reading signs, and an continual over-realised eschatology. It’s just not worth it.

A Summer of Discontent and A Killer In Winter by Susanna Gregory

If you’re looking for a fictional series set in the 14th century, with a doctor as the main character, who investigates a plethora of murders with his monk counterpart; then this series is for you.

These two books are numbers eight and nine in the series. It’s a murder mystery type series and I enjoy reading them.

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

This is a book about smartphone use from a Christian perspective.

I think it’s helpful, thought-provoking, and very practical.

It’s not one of those ‘depart from the evil smartphone’ kind of books you might expect. It affirms technology as a gift from God and something to be embraced, while also providing wisdom-like thoughts as to its usefulness. The book sets up some helpful frameworks to think through technology and smartphones and their ultimate purpose. At times there is some clear theological over-reach going on, quite often associated with books of this genre (read: a lot of Christian living books today). But, it’s certainly worth the read.

A Sweet And Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, And The Sovereignty Of God by John Piper

This is one of the books I used in preparation for preaching a series on Ruth at my church. I think it is fantastic.

It’s more of a devotional commentary and gives good insight into the book. It teaches the meta-narrative themes of Ruth and provides devotional material to personally ponder. It’s very helpful in understanding of the book of Ruth, who God is, and the implications of the story. It’s also helpful in teaching how to read Old Testament scripture in narrative form.

Embracing Grace: A Gospel For All Of Us by Scot McKnight

The emphasis of grace here is a great reminder of the gifts God has given each of us. This is quite an easy read, and a good book to work through devotionally.

McKnight seeks to remind us that the gospel is what can make us whole, restored, creatures of God. The various facets of the gospel were great to hear again. Evidently published at the height of the emergent church movement, there is subtle reference and use of examples from that period (circa late-90s to mid-00s). But unless you’re aware of this period and of its writings then it makes no difference upon reading. The gospel forms us and restores us as personal creatures, image-bearers of God, and the communities in which we live and serve. Good to read.

Faith Formation In A Secular Age: Responding To The Church’s Obsession With Youthfulness by Andrew Root

This is one of the more dense and theologically heavy books I’ve read in a while. That’s probably why it took my a few months to get through.

In any case, it is a book of two halves. The first, focussing more on the rise of youth culture in Western society, particularly since World War II. This has had and emphasis on valuing authenticity, seeing it as a virtue to uphold. This section is a historical journey with clear implications for today, certainly in the church and its youth ministry. The second part of this book is focussed on faith formation in the secular age. It deals with how this could be done, albeit very briefly, while giving details of a more in depth analysis of what faith is and how to think through it biblically.

It was worth the read even if it did leave me rather unsatisfied with its conclusions.

I have written a more comprehensive review on The Gospel Coalition Australia website, and a further reflection on this blog.

Finish: Give Yourself The Gift Of Done by Jon Acuff

Here’s a helpful self-help book.

This is about helping those of us who start projects but never complete them. You know, we leave them half done, or complete day one of our goal but by day four we’ve already stopped because it’s hard and unenjoyable.

Acuff, with a significant amount of humour, really gives some great advice. The main issue being our dependency to seek perfection in everything we do, which results in us never completing the steps of a project in the first place. Some suggestions Acuff has for helping with this is by cutting goals in half, giving more time to projects or goals, actually saying ‘no’ to things that get in the way, do what’s fun, and also get rid of the secret rules we give ourselves with these types of things. Case in point, making an arbitrary rule about what can or cannot be counted as ‘read’ books. Audiobooks count. It’s OK. Why make rules around this? It’s just silly and stupid.

Anyway, excellent book.

Idea: Multiple Churches, One Youth Pastor

An enjoyable part of working within the #youthmin world is connecting with other youth pastors and youth ministry practitioners from across the globe. For a number of years I’ve been following a guy called James in the UK. He regularly blogs about youth work and ministry from a British perspective. I often find his posts helpful, and it really is just him vomiting his thoughts onto the page (or screen as it may be).

As it happens, James and I are reading the same book at the same time. Andrew Root’s latest work, “Faith Formation In A Secular Age: Responding To The Church’s Obsession With Youthfulness”. Yesterday, James had a few reflections on the beginnings of the book and I found it useful to engage with. You can read it here. In this post I’d simply like to engage with what he has written and add my two cents too.

Basically, James asks the question, after reading a chapter or two of the book, “Has the church embraced youthfulness – but given up on young people?”

James then outlines a few thoughts on how the church in the UK has been focussed on young people, and a lot of the time only young people, perhaps to the neglect of other generations. But, one of the key lines in this reflection from James is, “…I imagine that in the UK the drive to attract young people has less to do with authenticity, and more to do with survival.”

This is a key comment.

It is a key issue the church battles with today, and one that youth pastors and other church leaders know, feel, write about, and talk about a lot.

The first part of Andrew Root’s book is a fascinating look into the rise of youth culture in society, particularly American culture, and the effect this has had on our thinking. His contention, better argued than I will articulate here, is that the West, since the 1960’s, has had an obsession with ‘youth’, which filters into everything we see around us. So much so that whenever we think of something to do with ‘youth’ we believe it is authentic and cool. That which is authentic is generally that which is young, yip, and youthful.

In our churches we’ve seen this occur over the last 40-50 years through the strong rise in the youth ministry movement. Prior to the 1960’s, and the beginnings of student and youth orientated para-church organisations, the sole youth pastor within a local church community was not even a thing. Now, almost every church’s second staff appointment would be a youth pastor. To look after the ‘young people’ of course.

Furthermore, there has been a sharp rise in considering ‘youthfulness’ as being the epitome of church and church life. For a church to be authentic, happening, and growing, it needs to have the vibe that it is young, cool, and hip. When you look around Christendom currently, this sort of vibe is especially evident.

James talks about how many of the youth workers and pastors in his region have been given the flick because of financial restraints and the like. He talks about the decrease in specialist youth workers in his region regularly, it seems to be a major concern.

But this got me thinking about how many churches I know who have full-time youth and young adult pastors. Generally, it is only the ones who are large, perhaps with a Sunday morning attendance of 250+, that can afford such an expense. I am also aware that there are plenty of smaller churches who seek to employ a youth pastor (or similar) but can only afford to days per week at the most.

My question is, is the church of the future willing to work together in order to pay someone a full-time wage but have their youth work cross local church boundaries?

In other words, would two or three smaller churches in a particular area be willing to pay for one person to cover youth ministry in their region? 

I think this would be an interesting experiment for local churches to grapple with.

This would provide someone with full employment, paid through two or more churches, while giving broader scope for the churches than their own little patch. Some might call it kingdom thinking I suppose.

And this links back to the key comment James was making when he said, “…I imagine that in the UK the drive to attract young people has less to do with authenticity, and more to do with survival.”

Rather than actually think about survival (which I understand is a massive issue when the finances are barely paying the overheads), wouldn’t it be better to think more strategically and out-of-the-box in regard to youth ministry? When we’re solely thinking in terms of survival, looking to ‘attract young people’, then we’ve lost the plot.

What we need is a vision that understands the realities of what it is to work in faith-based youth ministry, but have that aligned with a larger vision of God being at work through his people, the Church. And, along the way it would be worth experimenting and working together with other churches for the spread of the gospel and work of his kingdom.

Make The Bible Project Your Bible Reading Plan For 2018

If you’re a Christian who likes to make New Year’s resolutions then I suspect you may have the classic, “Read the Bible in a year” on the list.

Maybe.

As is my usual practice, I commit to this goal on January 1 and often come up short by the time I’m halfway through Leviticus. What’s that, mid-February?

Maybe you have the same issue as I do.

LP-BibleProject

Some suggest that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result”. That might not be its true definition but it can often be the experience of those of us who have the goal to read the whole bible and don’t achieve it, year after year after year. And it is not a bad goal–to read all 66 books of the bible in a year. In fact, it is a SMART goal. It’s specific, measurable, achievable, results-focussed and time-bound. SMART.

This year, rather than advocating for the Glenn McGrath approach to bible reading, I’ve come across The Bible Project’s ‘Read Scripture’ plan. This plan includes videos and other good resources to help people read and understand the scriptures as a whole. I often watch The Bible Project videos and listen to their podcast and find them extremely helpful in understanding the bible as a unified whole. They seek to tell the stories of the bible in fresh ways, and bring a wealth of knowledge and help in understanding and interpreting the scriptures.

As part of their ‘Read Scripture’ plan they have produced an app, which incorporates their videos and selected readings for each day of the year. If you’re like me, and enjoying ticking off what you’ve read each day then you also have the option of downloading the readings as a PDF to stick into your bible.

Good luck with any of your New Year’s resolutions, whatever they might be. But may I encourage you to think about attempting the ‘read scripture’ plan and have a go at reading the whole bible in a year.

My Top Posts of 2017

Earlier this month I wrote briefly about how I’ve managed to achieve a couple of blogging goals this year. I wanted to write more regularly in 2017, and as a result I’ve averaged a published post per week on this site and a few guest posts on others. The second goal was to increase the amount of views from last year. I aimed to double last years result and achieved this too. Happy days.

Top Posts of 2017

But, there are a few things that continue to get read reasonably regularly so here’s a list of the five most popular posts viewed this year (2016 and 2015).

One, 11 Things: The Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor Relationship

It seems there’s a few people out there wanting some tips on how to deal with the Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor dynamic. It’s not surprising, it’s probably the number one reason Youth Pastors move on from their job.

Two, Growing Young – Keychain Leadership

I wrote this over twelve months ago. I was working through the book Growing Young. This post talks about how churches need to be willing to pass the baton of leadership to young people. It is a key chapter in the book and worth reading entirely.

Three, Growing Young

Here I begin the Growing Young series, which I wrote over a period of three months. I write about each chapter, but this one gives a general summary of the whole. Again, it’s a book for those in youth ministry and church leadership (and others if they’re interested).

Four, Beginning As A Youth Pastor: 11 Things I Wished I Knew

I wrote this in preparation for a presentation. It describes what I wished I knew when I started out as a Youth Pastor. As it turns out I had 11 points, and those 11 points were then made into a blog post each. This series has already been mentioned with the number one most popular post on the site. This one covers them all.

Five, On Youth Pastor Position Descriptions

I saw a really poorly written position description for a youth ministry position and I got annoyed. This resulted in further articulation of my thoughts in this post. It seems it was reasonably well read and rather relevant to people. Not really many surprises there if you’re a Youth Pastor.

Some other random bits of information about this blog:

  • The top five countries where readers are from are Australia, the USA, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. Australia and the US bring in the most by far.
  • Facebook and search engines are the digital spaces people come from to read.
  • I currently have over 200 posts available for people to read.

If you’re a regular reader, thanks very much for coming by. I am always in two minds as whether or not keeping this up is worth it. When I get to the end of the year and begin to re-evaluate my goals there is something about giving this up that I would find painful. I hope the words written here are worthy of being read, fun and humourous at times, and most of all bringing glory to God as I write about youth ministry.

Thanks again.

My Top Books of 2017

The end of another year is the perfect time for pretentious bloggers to write their list of top reads for the year. Armed with the arrogance of knowing they’ve read more books than most of their friends, and willing to share that information publicly, puts them in a category everyone despises. Nevertheless, I’ve done it for the last three years (2014, 2015, 2016) so why not continue to reveal my own pride and let you all know what I’ve read and how much.

Here goes.

My Top Books of 2017

Because any reader worth their salt is signed up to Goodreads, which enables readers to reveal and recommend books to their friends, there is an automatic graphic created to show just what I’ve read. If you’re interested in that then feel free to have a look. The following is a list of books I’ve rated 5 out of 5 from the 27 I’ve read this year. They are in no particular order.

I couldn’t have kicked off the year with a better book. It was all about how we relate to God. Since reading the book I have found it hard to explain his idea of being ‘with’ God but it was very true and very life giving. It’s pretty much the idea that we aren’t relating to God through Christ in a way which means we are ‘over’ God, or ‘under’ God, per se. It is really trying to say that through our lives we are walking with Jesus, we are WITH God and God is WITH us. There’s a relationship thing going on. It’s a brilliant book and I’d highly recommend it. It’s become a main text for my apprenticeship program next year, it’s that good.

Peterson writes really well. Everything I’ve read of his has been great. This is no exception. Here Peterson articulates the story of his life and ministry. He doesn’t do it all in a chronological and normative fashion. However, there is much in here to listen to and chew on.

I’ve written previously about this book and have found it very stimulating. It’s mainly about how the church can be the church in a post-modern, post-Christian, post-everything culture. And, how Christians can be Christians in a post-everything culture. From the other books I’ve read of his I’ve found this to be his best one. This books has also made it into the hands of a few at church, which is pleasing. But as I’ve commented to them, it’s constantly full of ideas and points one wants to discuss with others. It’s really good.

I took my time reading this but was very impressed with how Keller holds social justice and his evangelical convictions so well. I’m not sure why I’m surprised through, evangelical Christians have been doing good works for centuries. Anyway, Keller articulates the biblical mandate of justice and uses the odd example to show how this might work out in a church context. He elevates this well and by the end you know this is a no-brainer. Big tick.

Just as the Australia plebiscite was in full swing I read this book. It was brilliant. I’m not even sure it matters that the writer is gay. He articulates a terrific theology of friendship, elevating the need for friendship into a status close to marriage. There is the thought of commitment ceremonies for friends, and not in a gay marriage kind of way, but in a way that highlights the need for friends to commit to one-another. It is a book that makes you think about how your church helps singles, couples, and marrieds be better friends to one-another. It’s certainly worth the read. I wrote a few more words about it here.

This is a small yet powerful book. For Christians it should be obvious that discipling others is part of what it is to be a believer. Here Dever outlines a terrific way in how to do that in the Western church and is something I believe strongly in. As I’ve written previously:

“The obvious case for making disciples is made and then the ‘how-to’s’ are provided. Because I’ve read a lot of Dever, and this kind of discipleship, then I understand how to go about it. For those who are unsure this is a good primer and will provide the foundations and the practical. It’s really as easy as meeting with someone, opening the bible with them, and simply talking and listening to one-another. This should really be a standard text for anyone wishing to disciple/mentor/coach or whatever you want to call it. If I was running an internship or ministry apprenticeship this would be on my reading list.”

I wrote a review of this book separately and outlined how many of Roos’ leadership principles relate to youth ministry. Read that for more worthwhile content.

This book follows Paul Roos’ playing days, and particularly his successful coaching career. It’s a great read if you like sports biography, AFL, or leadership.

  • Lion by Saroo Brierley

This is the true story of Saroo, who at the age of five is separated from his family in India. After jumping on a train, believing it will take him back to his family, he is lost in one of the largest and busiest cities in the world. The story is amazing, and I won’t spoil the ending. But, it’s the book made into a movie a couple of years ago. Great story. Inspiring stuff.

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and there is much to recommend about it. It’s all about youth ministry, which isn’t a surprise given its title. But, it goes into depth about the ins and out of what youth ministry is about. It talks about the culture of youth ministries and how churches are always looking for the short-term, quick fix. Instead, the author is advocating for long-term, strategic and sustainable youth ministries focussed with intention and structure. DeVries has had many years of experience in youth ministry, mainly at one church but then with an organisation that consults to other youth ministries and churches. I found it one of the better youth ministry books I’ve read. It probably makes my top 5 (youth ministry books). I have some quotes from this book in a previous post. Excellent.

Sustainable Youth Ministry, Quotes

I’m currently reading Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. It’s a book published in 2008 and I can’t actually believe I haven’t read it yet. Anyway, while it’s been resting on my shelf since last Christmas I thought it worth bringing it out at years end. At the 70 page mark I can certainly tell it’s a zinger, with a number of challenging quotes and comments. Here are three that have stood out to me thus far.

From page 13:

“The short-term, high-number, razzle-dazzle, success of your current youth ministry might blind you to the fact that success in youth ministry is measured in decades, not in year-to-date comparisons with last year’s mediocre youth staffer who, quite honestly, just didn’t have your gifts.”

From Thomas G. Bandy quoted on page 16:

“The declining church always assumes that the solution to youth ministry is programmatic. If only they could get a good leader! If only they could find a great curriculum! If only they could renovate a room in the building for youth meetings! They fail to recognise that the solutions to youth ministry, like the solution to decline in general, is systematic.”

Quoting Roland Martinson on page 29:

“The history of primary calling inexperienced and inadequately trained young people to do youth ministry reflects the myth that youth ministry is a beginner’s job that doesn’t require much education, experience or skill. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Youth ministry is one of the most demanding ministries–so demanding and frustrating that many pastors and congregational leaders don’t know what to do.”