Category Archives: Books worth reading
our worship terminates on the shallow and vacuous.
We have a war going on, and a good portion of the world is in an unbelievable mess of poverty, famine, civic unrest, and violence. And yet if you turn on the new in the United States you will be far more likely to hear about the daily activities of pop stars and actors or how much money an athlete is making and who he’s dating than anything meaningful. Surely anyone can see that our worship switch is always set to On, and we’re tuned to some ridiculously finite broadcasts. Grown men paint their bodies and surf an incalculable number of websites to follow a sports team – significant emotional energy poured into the physical abilities of children in a game. Go to any concert and you’ll see people lift their hands spontaneously and clap and close their eyes and be spiritually moved by music. People fish or hike to be in tune with nature. We put posters on our walls, stickers on our cars, ink under our skin, and drugs into our system. We do all of these things and others like them, pouring ourselves automatically and quite naturally into what is decaying. We want to worship something. Worship is an innate response. We are wired for it by God himself.
But something has gone wrong with the wiring.
Matt Chandler , in The Explicit Gospel
What is your worship directed at today?
“God has given man the ability to be the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to a marriage.” Justin Buzzard in Date Your Wife calls men to initiate, pursue, and desire our wives like we did at first. To plan and implement a strategy of devotion like we would a hunting or golf trip or a business deal. It’s what God created men to do. This book is a short treatise on what it means to be a husband. And for a generation that has no idea what that means, its a desperately needed message. Very practical. Men, a great Christmas gift idea for your wife: get this book, read it, do it. Here’s a few favorite quotes:
- “Matrimony came from Paradise, and leads to it. I never was half so happy, before I was a married man, as I am now. When you are married, your bliss begins. Let the husband love his wife as he loves himself, and a little better, for she is his better half. He should feel, ‘If there’s only one good wife in the whole world, I’ve got her.’” ~ Spurgeon
- our first date stories have one thing in common: we acted like men. We pursued our wives to be. We made the move. We initiated. We took a risk. We took the lead.
- “There is no bond on earth so sweet, nor any separation so bitter, as that which occurs in a good marriage.” ~ Martin Luther
- If you want to change a marriage, change the man.
- God has given the man the ability to be the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to a marriage.
- A man needs a mission. Men were created to carry out a mission, and if a man does not have a mission, he feels lost and impotent.
- God have the first man, and God gives us men, a mission that can be completed only through dependence.
- Jesus doesn’t make men better. He makes men new.
- The most rebellious, countercultural thing you can do in our culture is to be happily married until death do you part.
- Vows aren’t automatic. Vows aren’t magic. Vows don’t keep themselves.
- The point of your marriage isn’t you. The point of your marriage isn’t your wife. The point of your marriage is to date your wife in such a way that showcases Jesus and His power to a world of husbands and wives, men and women, boys and girls, in desparate need of a God who can rescue, reconcile, restore, and redeem their broken lives. Marriage isn’t ultimate. God is ultimate.
Great list of 100 Ideas on how to be intentional about Dating Your Wife. Here’s a few:
- Cut something from your budget and use that money to date your wife.
- Cut something from your schedule and use that time to date your wife.
- Pray for your wife. Pray for her every day.
- Tell you wife that she looks beautiful, and teach your kids to do the same.
- Criticize your wife less. Compliment your wife more.
- Hold your wife’s hand often, in public and in private.
- Watch the kids and send your wife out to a local coffee shop to enjoy an hour or two alone.
- Brag about your wife in front of other people.
- Keep fresh dry erase markers in the bathroom. Periodically write your wife an encouraging note on the bathroom mirror that she’ll read when she wakes up.
- Write in a card the top five reasons you chose your wife as your bride.
Also, check out the author’s blog here.
The New Testament book of James teaches us that applying wisdom means:
- That we should live, not just learn the Bible [James 1:22]
- That pure religion cares for the orphan and widow [James 1:27]
- That loving our neighbor is the “royal law” [James 2:8]
- That mercy triumphs over judgement [James 2:13]
- That faith without deeds is worthless [James 2:16, 20]
- That knowledge should result in humble deeds [James 3:13]
- That wisdom from heaven is full of mercy [James 3:15-17]
- That failing to do “good” is sin [James 4:17}]
- That in our neglect we become oppressors [James 5:1-6]
(list found in the Barefoot Church Primer by Brandon Hatmaker)
“It may be simpler to live as if our actions and words function independently of each other, but one thing’s for certain – our observers never separate the two” ~ The Barefoot Church Primer
Understanding about Discipleship in today’s church ranges from it being optional or more about knowledge of the Bible or behavior modification or a linear system of progression to maturity. I loved Jonathan Dodson’s book Gospel Centered Discipleship as it forces us back to discipleship being about Jesus. This will be a good read for anyone strategizing in churches to make disciples. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes that have stuck with me since reading this book this summer:
- Jesus is not merely the start and standard for salvation, but…the beginning, middle, and end of my salvation.
- The gospel is necessary for getting right & doing right w/God, for salvation & sanctification.
- Disciple is an identity; everything else is a role.
- The gospel makes all-encompassing demands, and what the gospel demands, it supplies.
- Jesus, alone, should take the center place in our lives, not our Bible Reading, evangelism, character, or effort to be different or spiritual.
- … the gospel that makes disciples is the very same gospel that matures disciples.
- The gospel frees us from running ragged trying to please God with holiness and social justice, because Jesus has pleased God for us & secured the mission.
- … our approval before God rests, not on our performance but on the performance of Jesus.
- God’s forgiveness frees us from judgement, not from obedience.
- Repentance is not a one time act to get us into heaven, but an entire way of life to maintain Christian joy.
- Jesus didn’t die & rise to rapture individual disciples, but to make a community that reflects his glory through dependence on one another.
- The challenge of loving others as we love ourselves confronts our deep-down idolatries. It exposes our functional worship of individual privacy, convenience, & comfort.
Follow the Gospel Centered Disicpleship blog as well for great thinking on discipleship and life in Christ.
Great list for anyone in ministry or not, by Brian & Amy Bloye in their new book It’s Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting.
- Do what is important, not what is urgent. “If you try to make everyone happy, the ones who lose out will be the ones your know will forgive you: your spouse and your children.”
- Bring fun and adventure into your relationship. “when wives of pastors get involved in extra-marital affairs, it tends to be because the other man was someone who was fun to be with.”
- Take time off every week. “Sometimes it appears that you can’t afford a day off; the truth is, it’s the other way around. You can’t afford not to take a day off.”
- Keep intimacy a priority.
- Focus on being a team.
- Find your significance & security in Christ. “We were created, as human beings, to find our meaning not in what we do but in what God has done for us.”
- Make time for meaningful communication. “Get the conversation rolling…keep your ears unclogged – listen attentively.”
- Help your spouse go as far as he or she can go. Don’t put extra weights on him or her. Help him feel light and fast in the race of life.
- Share your spiritual lives with each other. The pastor shares his spiritual journey from the stage. Do it at home as well.
- Make your spouse your project. Get to know her strengths and weaknesses, love languages, keep a prayer list of her needs. etc.
- Set meaningful boundaries. “people come and go, and even staff come and go, the only constants are God and the two of us; to lose us is to lose everything…”
This book is really helpful. Looking forward to sharing it with church planting friends.
More than occasionally I’m asked by people interested in Church planting, “Hey, what should I be reading?” Here’s my current top ten list of favorites in no particular order. All of these are in the category of “I wish I’d read that before I planted a church.”
- Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before It Starts by Ben Arment. Honest book about the difficulty of planting a church. Discussion questions after each section would be great for Core Group Training.
- Deliberate Simplicity: How the Church Does More by Doing Less by Dave Browing. Great book to help with focus and vision. Here’s a brief review I wrote a few years back.
- Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer. The textbook.
- Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers by Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird. Great book for churches wanting to sponsor churches or plant multiple churches and campuses. Research based. Great reference guide to what’s up out there in Church Planting.
- The Multiplying Church by Bob Roberts. From an experienced sender. The chapter on Starting a Church Planting Training Center at Your Church would be worth reading for every sponsor church pastor. My thoughts here.
- Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church by Neil Cole. Challenging questions and answers for the church going forward into the future. Can’t get this book off my desk right now.
- Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community by Ed Stetzer and David Putman. “Don’t plant the church in your head. Plant it in the community.” One of my fav Ed Stetzer quotes. This book helps us do that.
- It’s Not Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting by Brian & Amy Bloye. Reading right now. Incredibly honest look at the life of the church planter.
- Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Movement by Dave & Jon Ferguson. Great text book for starting at every level. Includes great chapters on multisite and sending out church planters, which is a core competency of the Ferguson’s church.
- Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church by Reggie McNeal. Is it going to be about how many, how much, how often? I hope not. This book will help you get the right scorecard.
Other books that have been foundational for our current church plant: The Externally Focused Church by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw, The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community by Steve Timmis.
What would be your recommendations?
You cannot defeat men like this. Tell them to keep quiet, and they disobey you. Throw them into prison, and they convert the jailer. Whip them, and they rejoice to be allowed to suffer for Christ. Stone them within an inch of their lives in one city, and they carry on with just the same message in the next. Kill them, and others arise to take their place. Endurance like that simply has to win in the long run. But we do not see enough of it in our western church. There is plenty of obstinacy, to be sure, but usually about the wrong things: church property, ministers who aren’t liked, or style of services.
Michael Green on the endurance of the early church in his great book called 30 Years that Changed the World.
- On the Verge: A Journey Into the Apostolic Future of the Church by Dave Ferguson and Alan Hirsch. Hirsch plays the theorists and Ferguson plays the practicioner. Great look into the changing nature of ministry and disciple-making and how to transition our churches to reach people in today’s shifting cultural sands.
- Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture by Brandon Hatmaker. As a leader of a church that’s focusing 90% of our energy outward, this book was a huge encouragement. Great ideas and inspiration for creating a culture of ministry and service.
- Cracking Your Church’s Culture: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration by Samuel Chand. “Culture – not vision or strategy – is the most powerful factor in any organization.” I’ve learned this the hard way as a leader. Great book on shaping the culture of a church or organization. Here’s my brief review.
- Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples by Jim Putman. The real call of Christ is to make disciples and this is one of the most practical tools for how to do it, since Disciples Are Made, Not Born. And get the 12-week Training Manual. If the church is going to be good at something it should be disciple-making. This helps. Here’s an overview.
- Journey’s to Significance: Charting a Leadership Course from the Life of Paul by Neil Cole. An interpretive biography on Paul. Really hoping this is the beginning of a series by Cole.
- Truth that Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truth in a Teflon World by Avery Willis and Mark Snowden. Avery Willis’ last book as he passed away earlier this year. About bringing Bible-storying to the North American context. Very compelling book demonstrating the need for the lost art of story telling.
A few in process and that I’m looking forward to reading in 2012:
- Xealots: Defying the Gravity of Normality by Dave Gibbons.
- Thirty Years that Changed the World: The Book of Acts for Today by Michael Green.
- Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church by Reggie McNeal.
- Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication by Tim Schraeder.
- Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus by Hugh Halter.
What else should I add to my list?
Always think of this great list from Will Mancini as I look toward a new year and new endeavors:
What can I:
From Church Uniqe: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement. Get the Visual Summary free here.
Getting ready for a day of meetings with one of the largest networks of relationships in our community. Nope, not going to an denominational or church meeting, but to hang out with a local non-profit that I’ve been privileged to work with over the past few years. Lots of great reasons for churches to partner with non-profit organizations in our communities. In his great book, Barefoot Church, Brandon Hatmaker list several great ones:
- Nonprofits typically have a great reputation in the community. “While nonprofits are often the most well-connected organizations in the city, churches remain some of the most isolated voices in our community.” Getting involved can help open doors for greater influence and greater impact for the gospel.
- Nonprofits are experts in their field of work.
- Partnering with nonprofits offers a new posture for the church. A few years ago I attended a volunteer roundtable hosted by the Lt. Governor of our state, and as the only pastor in the room I sunk in my chair as leaders of non-profits asked why churches didn’t get more involved in the community. They saw the potential for impact for and with the church before I did. And don’t assume that these partners are against us sharing our message. Most expect it and desire faith engagement.
- Nonprofit partnership is an easily reproducible strategy. If you’re looking for opps to engage the community, the nonprofit world is a easy “plug and play” arena. We as leaders need only to assimilate opportunities to serve, communicate the process, and empower people to go.
- Nonprofits need volunteers more often than they need money. Hatmaker notes that “lack of resources is the most common excuse churches make not to serve the poor.” While they’d certainly appreciate a financial donation, a working relationship does not hinge on it. Often the greatest need is people.
- Serving with nonprofits provides a platform to serve selflessly. Serving with a nonprofit is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on something happening for the good of our community. Our culture sees churches as self-absorbed (I asked one non-profit leader how a church could help him and he said honestly and without malice based on his experience personally and professionally, “I didn’t know churches helped people”).
Hatmaker also lists six steps to effective partnerships:
- Start with a common redemptive purpose. There are definitely nonprofits that are doing much of what God’s word calls us to do in relation to justice and bringing hope. Start there.
- Prioritize developing relationships. There will be worldview issues that collide when engaging outside the church. And we’ll have a better platform for engaging these as we build nonagenda-oriented relationships with community leaders.
- Trust their leadership. If you can’t trust their leadership, then move on to a different non-profit. But I’ve found nonprofit leaders from Fire Depts to Food Banks to be hard working, trustworthy, and eager to have the church as a partner.
- Lose your agenda. We’re coming to serve them in a common redemptive purpose. Focus on serving them.
- Give away the credit. “If you are willing to partner with local nonprofits who have spent years building credibility in different areas of service, take a backseat, and don’t seek a name through this.”
- Commit to be available. The best way to build credibility with community leaders is through availability and follow through.
Check your local government website. They should have a list of nonprofits in the area. If you’re in St. Tammany it’s here. You can also sign up to receive a monthly update to this list with specific opportunities called The Loop.
Check out this church in Austin, TX that assimilates opps to serve through nonprofits in their city. Here is their Christmas list.
What nonprofit are you working with? Have you learned any lessons in this regard?
Another topic for another day is starting a nonprofit alongside the ministry of the church.
Pick up Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture by Brandon Hatmaker for more great ideas and inspiration for incarnational ministry.