Category Archives: Books worth reading
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.
How close is my church to being a multiplying church? What markers to I need to aim for if I desire for my church or network to multiply? Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright share a great list of 10 markers or characteristics of a Multiplying Movement in their great book Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations. Here’s the list in the form of 10 questions to Gauge multiplication:
- How are we expanding the vision to share the gospel for our people?
- How are we encouraging focused prayer for evangelism?
- Are we providing simple and reproducible gospeling tools?
- Is there an abundance of gospel seed sowing?
- Are we training our people to share the gospel frequently and regulary?
- Are new believers rapid to obey and go make disciples in their networks?
- Are we seeing generational growth patterned after 2 Timothy 2:2?
- How are we holding each other accountable to sharing the gospel?
- How are we celebrating stories of obedience in gospel sharing?
- How are we multiplying churches through our new disciples?
Challenging list, but some simple starting points for any church.
>> Expand the vision. The authors give the challenge of considering “how many new disciples would you need to turn back the lostness in your immediate area by just 1 percent?” In my community, The Association of Religious Data Archives says there are 116,018 unaffiliated individuals, that are not part of any church or religious body. So to just focus on these would mean, we’d need to reach 1,160 people! Need big vision to accomplish this!
>> Begin to Pray. “Prayer aligns our hearts with God’s heart for the lost.” Great tools like BlessEveryHome.com can be used for strategic prayer across your community. Also, devising a way for people to write down their lost friends pray for regularly.
>> Provide tools and training. “A commitment to frequent, intentional training is the key factor that distinguishes a multiplying movement from one of fast addition.” How are you training people to share the gospel? Lots of tools available like One on One: Evangelism Made Simple through the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the 3 Circles Life Conversation Guide through the North American Mission Board. Books like Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations, Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out by Alvin Reid, and Tell Someone by Greg Laurie. Lot’s of simple ways to provide training.
Turning Everyday Conversations Into Gospel Conversations is also a good How To book for Christians, presenting the 3-Circles method of sharing the Gospel. Check it out and maybe buy a box for your small group or church resource center.
Here’s a few other great quotes from the book:
- The North American church needs more believers actively engaging their neighbors and coworkers in gospel conversations.
- It’s not enough to preach the gospel only on Sunday. It’s not enough for a handful of seminary trained individuals to tell several hundred people the good news once a week.
- every follower of Jesus should be intentionally discipling at least one person.
- How do we know when someone is ready to hear and genuinely respond to the gospel? The fact is we really never know what God is doing in someone’s heart. We need to have frequent, intentional gospel conversations and then allow the gospel to be the filter.
- What fueled the exponential and explosive growth of Christianity in the first century was how ordinary people spoke of the gospel to everyone they knew.
- Christ followers are lifelong repenters who need to rehearse the gospel daily.
- If our golf swing is worth practicing, then certainly our gospel sharing is as well.
- Multiplying movements ignite when new believers are immediately trained, discipled, and released to win and disciple those who far from God.
Updating my “What I’m Reading” Page today. Here’s a list of ome of my favs from this years reading list on Ministry and Leadership. I’ll share a few favs in History and Biography next Friday.
1. Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art by Peyton Jones. Challenging book that pushes against some of what makes modern ministry comfortable instead of urgent. Love Peyton Jones. Gave away a couple of boxes of this book this summer to our church planters and partners in Louisiana.
2. Everyone’s a Genius: Unleashing Creativity for the Sake of the World by Alan Briggs. This book will challenge your excuses and as a leader, make you believe again in the people around you to accomplish big things. Grateful for Alan. This is his third book and all three have made me think and are books I keep picking up to remember the insights gleaned.
3. Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins, Steve Wright, Bennett Leslee. This book gives great encouragement and a simple how to for those wanting to be consistent witnesses. Also has some great insights on church multiplication.
4. Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World by James Emery White. I have three kids that are Gen Z, so I was interested in this book. I was a little disappointed that it was really more about ministry in today’s world than insight into Gen Z. However, the insights are great. But don’t expect a plan for how to raise and think like your Gen Z kids.
5. Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus Into the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt. No one writes and speaks clearer about how to take the deep work of the Gospel into everyday life than Jeff Vanderstelt. Must read.
6. The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities by J.R. Woodward and Dan White Jr. Very technical work on Missional communities. Every chapter is one to savor and work on. Would be a great book to mentor a future church planter through. Some other insights and my fav quotes here.
7. Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It by Alvin Reid. Reid’s latest book will encourage you as a witness for Christ. Shorter in length than his textbook The Evangelism Handbook, which I recommend you read as well, this book is very personal, borrowing from personal stories of witnessing encounters of Reid and others. Some of my fav quotes here.
8. Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. Another book that you’ll want to revisit every year as you tweek systems and processes in your church. A few insights and quotes here.
Got any good recommends?
Let’s connect over on Goodreads as well and interact around what we’re reading.
Alvin Reid’s latest book, Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out, is a great read that will encourage you as a witness for Christ. Shorter in length than his textbook The Evangelism Handbook, which I recommend you read as well, this book is very personal, borrowing from personal stories of witnessing encounters of Reid and others. Jesus desires for us to be His witnesses (see Mark 4:19, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out will help you in this pursuit as a believer.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book to wet your appetite:
- In our mastery of fellowship with the saints, we’ve lost a burden for a friendship with sinners.
- Lost people are more amazed at our silence than offended at our message.
- The only “failure” in witnessing is the failure to witness, and even when that happens God still loves you.
- Daily prayer: “God, give me today (1) an opportunity to speak with someone about Jesus; (2) the wisdom to see it; and (3) the courage to take it.”
- living for Jesus is not hard, it’s impossible! That’s why God gave us his Son to save us, his Spirit to live within us, his Word to guide us, and his church to encourage us.
- You can’t evangelize effectively on a consistent basis without prayer.
- if you know someone really closely for years and never speak about Jesus, you are speaking about him: you are saying with your lack of words he is no big deal.
Right now you can buy a box of 20 for $5 each from Lifeway.com. Grab a box for your church, small group, etc. I’m giving away a couple of boxes at our Louisiana Church Planting Network gatherings this summer. Also, our church is also giving this book away on Sunday’s this summer.
JR Woodward’s and Dan White Jr.’s book The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities is well worth reading for church planters or leaders pursuing missional, incarnational movement. Great info and ideas on starting and sustaining missional communities. Also, goes into great detail on the APEST modes of church leadership – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers. Also, great information on the spiritual maturity as it relates to missional communities and deep relationships around discipleship. Would be great for a core group or launch team utilizing missional communities as a strategy to go through. Would also be good for a church wanting to get back to a missional, community driven focus to go through. Want be shelving this one anytime soon. Good tool to keep handy as we look to make disciples and catalyze a movement. Lots of good resources, worksheets, etc. at churchasmovement.com.
Wore through a highlighter reading this book, but here’s a few of my favorite highlights:
- Jesus’ main message centered on the kingdom of God and his primary way of creating movement was confiding in the three, training the Twelve and mobilizing the seventy.
- We must die to our self, our infatuation with speed and size, and devote ourselves to the work of making disciples, training the few.
- Movement is about developing structures and systems that catapult people into mission.
- the church as movement values shared leadership, sustainability and faithfulness, leaving fruitfulness to God.
- the church as movement focuses on the “small” grassroots work of developing a discipleship core that builds a missional community together.
- The church is not the church if it is not moving deeper into the brokenness of our world.
- The key element to the spontaneous expansion of the church is simplicity.
- Movement requires reproducibility. What we are multiplying should be reproducible by just about everyone.
- We must remember that faithfulness is our part, and fruitfulness is God’s. He can choose to move as slow or fast as he desires.
- Skill is not the first thing that qualifies leaders in the missional church; character is.
- Personality is great, but a sustainable movement is not built on it. Movements are built on character.
- Conflict in relating with others in community often hints at things we haven’t paid attention to in our own soul.
- We discover much about ourselves as we move outward on mission. Our fears, our insecurities, our hypocrisies, our apathies and our chaos is revealed as we attempt to live a missional life.
- Discipleship is a move toward accountability and vulnerability to learn and practice the way of Jesus on mission.
- Discipleship involves heart , mind and body learning, not just the transfer of information and beliefs.
- Discipleship cannot be consumed; we must participate in it.
- Mission is much more than a weekend project; it is an incarnational pursuit to be faithfully present to God’s in-breaking kingdom in the ordinariness of life.
- the church is not a building, a weekly gathering or a program, but a people God has called out of the world and sent back into the world to redeem and renew the world.
- This is the essence of the church: a people who find their identity in the arms of God (communion), rallied around tables welcoming each other (community) and sent out into the world with serving hands (co-mission).
- The church cannot storm the gates of hell by gathering around consumer needs. A shared life and the shared story that Jesus is King are its rallying points.
Prayer is co-operation with God. It is the purest exercise of the faculties God has given us—an exercise that links these faculties with the Maker to work out the intentions He had in mind in their creation. Prayer is aligning ourselves with the purposes of God…
Prayer is commitment. We don’t merely co-operate with God with certain things held back within… We, the total person, co-operate. This means that co-operation equals commitment. Prayer means that the total you is praying… Your whole being reaches out to God, and God … reaches down to you…
Prayer is communion. Prayer is a means, but often it is an end in itself… There are times when your own wants and the needs of others drop away and you want just to look on His face and tell Him how much you love Him…
Prayer is commission. Out of the quietness with God, power is generated that turns the spiritual machinery of the world. When you pray, you begin to feel the sense of being sent, that the divine compulsion is upon you.