Category Archives: Books worth reading
Dave Travis and Leadership Network have given us a great, short look into the future of church in North America with the book What’s Next: 2020 Edition. Many have sensed that the future may require some adjustments and new thinking about some of the methods we have relied on. Churches are either digging in, hanging on for survival, or making adjustments to meet the future. The short book What’s Next: 2020 is a good short primer that will help church leaders adjust thinking for the future. It would be great to go through as church staff or to give to key leaders in your church as you think about the next 10 years.
Most of the book is confirmation of things we’ve heard over the last few years:
- Reaching Millennials is both a must and a huge challenge.
- Tax breaks and incentives for churches and parishioners will probably go away in the future.
- Church buildings will get smaller and less traditional.
- The church must embrace multi-ethnic ministry in the future.
There are a few surprises in the book. Here’s a few takeaways from my Kindle Highlights:
- In 2019, Millenials will overtake Boomers as the largest generation group.
- Almost one in three Americans is Millenial.
- 45% of Millenials are non-white, making them the most racially diverse generation. 20% of Millenials are Latino, 14% Black, 6% Asian.
- Millenials have a stronger desire to excel at Parenting than any generation before. And kids come first in priority for this generation more than ever before. (Think Helicopter Parenting).
- Millenials are delaying, but not rejecting marriage. 57% are unmarried, compared to 43% of Gen X’ers.
- Millenials have the highest percentage of households in poverty. The are also more likely to rent their homes. And they are less likely to migrate or move than previous generations.
- They are more educated, at least have more degrees than previous generations.
- Millenials are underrepresented in even the most thriving, fast growing churches in America.
- Travis notes several things that are working in efforts to reach millenials. I’ll affirm one here, that we definitely see in Louisiana – Churches planted by and led by millenials tend to reach more millenials.
On Decline of Christianity in America:
- Nominal Christianity is dying. Faithful Christians are still faithful to attend, pray, serve their neighbors, and accept the Bible as wholly true, and in the same numbers as prior generation.
On Outreach and Evangelism:
- Travis notes the opportunity to reach people with technology, giving great examples of churches who have effectively used tech for evangelism and outreach.
- Family ministry is on the upswing. We have the opportunity to help people get married and help young parents pursue effective parenting. “young people today may be confident about many things, but not about the daunting task of raising a child.”
- The role of Groups in reaching people. Travis asserts that radical hospitality becoming a core value will help us reach the future generations. The longing in today’s culture is for social connections. Groups and gatherings in homes provide that necessary element like few other things.
- “We have to be willing to be radical in extending ourselves, our homes, and our group life to those who don’t yet believe and may never believe or walk with Jesus. This can feel disruptive in a group. But those who can handle the tension will yield kingdom fruit.”
- Travis discusses in detail the role of media, Youtube, AI, Instragram in outreach and church ministry in the future. “We need to be thinking visually all the time, because that’s how people are reached emotionally today.”
On Church buildings:
- “Build it and they will come” is giving way to “take your show on the road.”
- We will see less 3,500 seat auditoriums and more 800-1200 multipurpose buildings.
- There are now and estimated 65,000 multi-site congregations in North America, with over one third of them beginning as the result of a merger.
- Growing churches are becoming more multiplication minded, thinking about a second and third site out of the gate.
- “healthy, vital churches should be multiplying, because that’s what creates a future for our beliefs, and hope for those whom we’ve yet to reach for Christ.”
On Tax Issues for Churches:
- Travis sees the future being dire for Property Tax Exemptions, Gifts from attenders to churches not being taxed as income or being tax-deductible for the giver, and Pastor’s Housing Allowance Tax Breaks.
- Implications: Church Building construction will be affected. Buildings will become smaller and less noticable. We’ll see more shared facility arrangements with churches and business and churches and non-profits.
- A Huge Implication: Churches must adjust to the non-tax incentive for givers by teaching attenders the eternal value of true stewardship beyond tax implications. The question I’ve asked: Will lukewarm people give without an earthly incentive? We will definitely find out in the future.
There is much more in this short book that will make for meaningful conversation among church leaders and staffs. Put it on your reading list for early this year.
What do you think will change over the next decade? How do you think these issues will affect your church in the future? Are you thinking differently about church than you were in 2009-2010?
I wore out a highlighter on an incredible 120 page book recently. It’s called The Mobilization Flywheel: Building a Culture of Biblical Mobilization by Larry Walkemeyer and Todd Wilson. You may recognize Todd’s name from the Exponential Conference. Mobilization is the 2019 Exponential theme. This book, along with companion resources, drives the point home of the needed shifts in today’s church. The big idea is that today’s church may just be holding people back from becoming all that God made them for. Do we see people as mere volunteers to prop up our ministries or as masterpieces, created by God for kingdom transformation?
The book focuses on three things – Missionaries, Gatherings, Church –
- every believer is a missionary,
- every church should be a mobilization station that sends its missionaries,
- every believer can play a role in gatherings that share the gospel,
- and many gatherings can become new churches led by everyday missionaries.
Simple, Biblical steps from Mobilization to Multiplication.
There’s even a great section on how denominations and networks can fuel mobilization and multiplication in the 21st century.
I’m ordering a box of these. Hope you’ll read it and get a passion for Mobilizing God’s Masterpieces for kingdom expansion. You can actually get a free E-book version HERE.
A few of my favorite quotes:
- The average church is always looking for more volunteers to do more church work. At the same time, the typical Christian is frequently seeking more purpose in their lives.
- The church trains volunteers to pass out bulletins, while Jesus trained his disciples to cast out demons.
- From start to finish the call of discipleship is to be sent, to live as sent ones, to live mobilized!
- The church has mostly lived a “Come and See” model while Jesus operated from a “Go and Be” model.
- Too often we see individuals as volunteers to fuel our programs and to serve our purposes rather than as everyday missionaries with everyday mission fields….
- Leaders must shift from a bias of “We can do it, you can help” to one of “You can do it; how can we help?”
- Most so-called revivals these days prioritize greater sensations for the saved, instead of greater sending of the saved.
- Biblical discipleship always majored on going. Disciples were sent to make other disciples. Increasing maturity was evidenced by increased spiritual activity by disciples among non-believers.
- Biblical disciples are individuals who have determined their most significant accomplishments in life will be making disciples who make disciples.
- Biblical churches are churches who have embraced an operating system that prioritizes and practices equipping and sending believers to be disciples who in turn make disciples in their unique mission fields.
- Is today’s church so pastor-centric that believers are motivated to climb upward in the church power structures instead of inspired to move outward into their mission fields?
- Jesus knew that twelve multiplying disciples was a bigger number than 12,000 miracle seekers.
- Jesus trained disciples to cast out demons, but we settle for training believers to pass out bulletins and wonder why the average Christian is bored.
- There is a vast difference between volunteers filling a space and ordinary missionaries reaching an un-reached place.
- We must shift our paradigm from recruiting volunteers to accomplish “our thing” to mobilizing everyday missionaries in their common and unique callings to accomplish “God’s thing.”
- As Christian leaders, our paramount resource is not our building, our bank account, our band, etc…. It is the people the master has trusted us with leading.
- Do I help believers dream about their “more” or try to limit their vision to inside our church’s ministry?
- Churches – prioritize helping members live into their calling outside the church more than inside the church …. Raising up everyday missionaries, not just volunteers for ministry …. Keep the church simple and mission-focused …. Not running programs but equipping members to reach and disciple people in their individual mission fields.
“They devoted themselves to vision clarity, organizational alignment, clarity of vision, great preaching, monster outreach events, massive marketing campaigns, world class children’s ministry, the best music in town, leadership development, new sites, and the latest growth strategy to break the next growth barrier. Some of the believers came together weekly for an excellent Sunday morning show; others opted for overbooked schedules of travel sports and long work hours to pay increasing debt, leaving no margin for living in common. With divorce, addiction, and crime rates similar to society at large, outsiders mocked the church, wondering why they should be part of something so judgmental, hypocritical, and irrelevant. Rather than praising God for the abundance of blessing and being the fullness of Christ in everything and in every way, church members spent their time praying for deliverance from the same crazy, empty lives as their outsider friends. When numbers were not added daily, they looked for the next silver bullet to catalyze growth and make the church more relevant. They desperately sought to do church without being the church.”
Instead, let’s try… Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Sounds a lot simpler and a lot more fun. Proved to be fairly effective at changing the world as well. Which one are you and your church pursuing?
via Todd Wilson in his excellent book called More: Find Your Personal Calling and Live Life to Your Fullest Measure.
If the elements of God’s mission can be compared to a football game, we might say that the focus has become the huddle instead of the line of scrimmage. The line of scrimmage is where the action happens. We have prioritized huddling over playing our part on the line of scrimmage by purchasing fancier uniforms for the huddle, composing cooler songs for the huddle, writing more speeches to inspire the huddle, positioning every person in the perfect spot for the huddle, holding conferences on how to build a better huddle, even getting the perfect brew to pass around the huddle.
But Jesus’ commission for the church was about going, not huddling. The huddle is vital, but it’s only a brief moment to receive the playing directions from the quarterback. If you stay in the huddle too long, you get penalized and moved backward. The church is getting shoved backward on the mission field… the problem is an overemphasis on the huddle. The church must be mobilized, it must be sent to the scrimmage line.
Anxiety, Depression, Opioid addiction, Suicide. These are some of the struggles that have been thrust upon parents and families in our modern era. Here are a few good books I’ve read and recommended over the past few years if you’re walking any these paths yourself or with someone else.
Life’s Healing Choices: Freedom From Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits by John Baker. This book is the foundation for Celebrate Recovery, which is proving to be a great resources for communities and churches. It’s worth reading if just for the personal testimonies of transformation that will give you hope to overcome whatever struggle your are facing.
Hope in the Dark: Believing God is Good When Life is Not by Craig Groeschel. Craig’s personal story of struggling with his daughters illness, along with his decades of pastoral experience.
Love is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World by Jarrid Wilson. Jarrid’s personal journey through anxiety and depression. Demonstrates the power of love and specifically God’s love in overcoming these today.
Stronger: How Hard Times Reveal God’s Greatest Power by Clayton King. Clayton’s personal story of loss and hardship and the lessons learned in the school of suffering over the course of a believers life.
Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. Tough love is tough. This book gives direction in how to advance tough love in relationships with those closest to you. Lots of real life stories throughout as well.
On Pills and Needles: The Relentless Fight to Save My Son from Opioid Addiction by Rick van Warner. Rick’s story is from a faith perspective and the perspective of a restaurant manager, where drug addiction seems to thrive. You can hear his story on Family Life Radio’s Podast Here.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy. Good primer on understanding the rise of opioid production and abuse in America. Macy was a reporter in Appalachia and had a front row seat to its devastation over the last few decades.
Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff. Now a major motion picture. And now a series of books that includes two books by his son, Nick, who was a Meth Addict. This book shares the reality of this struggle from a parents perspective. Sheff does not come from a faith perspective. He is a journalist and writer. Well researched and personal.
Not My Child: A Progressive and Proactive Approach for Healing Addicted Teenagers and Their Families by Frank Lawlis. From the clinical perspective. Lots of great tips for families going through the struggle of addiction with teenagers.
Caring for One Another: 8 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships by Ed Welch. Anything by Ed Welch is worth reading for the believer who wants to know how to cope and what to say to those trying to cope. This short book helps with how to handle difficult conversations and how to talk about difficult things with people who are struggling.
Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide by Frank Page. The real, personal, and raw journey of a family with a child experiencing mental illness and eventual suicide. Page’s pastoral experience makes this a practical guide for what to do and what to say for those wanting to help others.
When Your Teen Is Struggling: Real Hope and Practical Help for Parents Today by Mark Gregston. Anything by Mark Gregston is worth reading. And you can catch his daily podcast and other resources here.
What books or resources do you recommend to those going through life’s wilderness?
Failure is pervasive in life and ministry. In his book Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure, J.R. Briggs vulnerably shares his story and weaves together the stories of others who had experienced great ministry failure. The book provides a healthy framework for understanding failure, provides solid definitions of success for those in ministry, and connects with some pathways out of ministry failure. Briggs reminds us of the facts that inn our failures we experience God’s grace and power, God does not leave us alone, and God shapes our character. Great book to process if you’re going through a dry season or feel an overwhelming sense of failure in your ministry or career. You can overcome, you can fail forward, you can begin again.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
- Ministry is fertile ground for failure, and failure is fertile ground for ministry.
- Breakdowns often lead to breakthroughs – and sometimes failure can be the very thing that provides the breakthrough we need to experience true ministry.
- Failure is the crucible of character formation.
- The gospel doesn’t keep us from failing but instead transforms it into deeper meaning and a more hopeful purpose.
- Often it is not a major catastrophic event that brings pastors down but the ongoing, unrelenting, oppressive stress on the treadmill of ministry, where we simply cannot keep up the pace.
- Faithful ministry is meeting people where they are and walking with them to where God wants them to be.
- The business-model approach to ministry is product oriented, a biblical approach to ministry is process oriented.
- When we live as faithful followers of Jesus, we are bound to fail – and yet this is a good thing. Failure can be a gift. Failure can be grace. Failure can yield hope.
- Our lives and ministries will be assessed by congruence, not efficiency. It is not found in productivity, competence or progress as much as in the development of Christlike character and coherence of our stories with the character of God.
- There are few professions more open to attack by vulnerability and shame than ministry.
- For pastors one of the most accepted and encouraged yet dangerous and potentially lethal numbing agents is busyness.
- Failure will define us, refine us or redefine us, but it will never leave us the same.
- How we deal with the brokenness around us depends entirely on how we deal with the brokenness inside us.
- There is no spiritual formation and maturity without difficulty and uncertainty. If we are going to continue to grow in our journey with Jesus, we have to continue to risk, opening ourselves up to the possibility of failing again.
“The Gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else. God never intended for your salvation to be an end, but a beginning. God saved you to be a conduit through whom His glorious, life changing gospel would flow to others. You are a link in a chain….”
Robby Gallaty, in Growing Up: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes Disciples
Life’s Healing Choices: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits by John Baker. The textbook version of Celebrate Recovery. Great testimonies throughout the book of people that have overcome incredible hurts, hang-ups, and habits.
Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure by JR Briggs. Specifically addresses the causes of ministerial discouragement and depression.
Caring for People God’s Way: Personal and Emotional Issues, Addictions, Grief, and Trauma by Tim Clinton. Textbook for handling difficult issues as a counselor or pastoral care giver.
Five Keys to Dealing with Depression by Gregory Jantz. Great, to the point primer for understanding and dealing with depression.
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by Martin Lloyd-Jones. Oldie but goodie. So so Biblical. Lloyd Jones pulls his medical doctor card along with the theologian card.
Confessions of a Depressed Christian: How A Pastor Survived Depression and How You Can Too by Jason McNaughten. Louisiana Pastor catalogs his personal struggle. Very helpful!
Christians Get Depressed Too: Hope and Help for Depressed People by David Murray. Good primer.
Melissa: A Father’s Lessons After a Daughter’s Suicide by Frank Page. From a parents side of the struggle of mental illness. And dealing with losing the battle through suicide.
Piper, John. When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God–and Joy. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006. Classic. Theological primer on depression.
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper and Justin Taylor. Great primer on suffering questions. Why? What now? etc.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life In Christ by Peter Scazzero. Must read for every Christian!
The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero
The Emotionally Healthy Church, Updated and Expanded Edition: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives by Peter Scazzero
Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission by Amy Simpson. Deals with deep mental illness issues and how the church could help or at least not hurt.
Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness by Matthew Stanford. Good academic primer.
Resurrecting the Person: Friendship and the Care of People with Mental Health Problems by John Swinton. Pastoral Care approach.
Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch. Short, to the point primer.
Depression: The Way Up When You Are Down by Ed Welch. Short, to the point primer.
Love Is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World by Jarrid Wilson. My favorite! Will read this every year from now on! Great book for those needing hope!
Last week, I posted about my journey of Becoming More Tech-Wise as a Parent and Leader. One of the best books I read in 2017, was in this regard – The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology In Its Place by Andy Crouch. The social experiment that is kids with constant social media and technology, continues to demonstrate extremely negative outcomes for families, mental health, faith development, etc. Crouch’s book was breath of fresh air to this parent who is trying to figure out how to guide our kids and families through these modern mine fields. The chapters build out the covenant or commitments of a tech-wise family. Families are encouraged to build out your own covenant or commitments as well. What would these commitments look like for your family?
The Ten Tech Wise Commitments:
We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.
We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement.
We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest. So one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play and rest together.
We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.
We aim for “no screens before double digits” (age of 10) at school and at home.
We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
Car time is conversation time.
Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices.
We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship.
We show up in person for the big events of life. We learn how to be human by being fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability. We hope to die in one another’s arms.
This book, plus our own hard lessons have led our family to make some adjustments along the way with technology. What rules or guidelines or commitments, if any, do you or your family exercise regarding technology?
One of the books we gave away at last year’s Church Planting training events was Peyton Jones’ Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art. Peyton’s message to the church is to get out from behind the walls and take risk to share the Gospel. He shares many of his experiences from the field and also many great quotes and stories from church history. Find much encouragement to get started or refocused on the mission of Jesus out there, among the lost in our communities in Reaching the Unreached. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes:
- The future belongs not to churches that can draw a crowd, but churches that can penetrate one.
- Before the faith comes to others ears, movement must first come to our feet.
- The Holy Spirit is always with his people, but he seems to show up with special power when his people are out of their depth. That’s because the secret ingredient for the secret sauce of power is risk.
- We pray for more power from the Holy Spirit, but why would he pour himself on us when we continue to do nothing?
- We may long to experience more of God’s presence, but maybe we aren’t doing anything we actually need him for.
- Without the tuning fork of mission, the instrument of Christianity sounds off key.
- The current hour calls for humble, broken people, consumed with Jesus, and unimpressed with themselves.
- The litmus test of whether God is moving isn’t how many Christians you’ve crammed into a room, but the effect upon the lost.
- If you’re going to help someone stuck in the muck you better be willing to get dirty; if you’re going to help the broken you’d better be ready to get hurt because the jagged edges of a broken life are sharp.
- The church that weathers the future will be less dependent upon buildings, methods, and structure and more on natural missional engagements.
Connect with Peyton Jones, his podcasts, newsletters, etc. at https://peytonjones.ninja/. He’s always great with resources for church planter training and encouragement. Hope to get Peyton down to Louisiana in person for training sometime soon.