Category Archives: Books worth reading

Books Worth Reading: February 2021

A few Good Reads from February. Connect with me over at Goodreads.com and let’s share our reading adventures.

Spent Matches: Igniting the Signal Fire for the Spiritually Dissatisfied by Roy Moran

Turning an existing church into a Disciple Making Movement. Details what a disciple making movement strategy looks like and then tells the story of Shoals Creek Community Church’s adaptation of the strategy.

Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race–And Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us by Benjamin Watson

Powerful testimony, encouragement, and direction from a man of wisdom and faith. Solid answers for how to think about racial issues in the aftermath of events that divide our country.

Milliken’s Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory by Linda Barnickel

A civil war battle in Northeast Louisiana that demonstrated the ability of black soldiers to fight victoriously over the Confederate army. Also, interesting details about life in Northeast Louisiana during the 19th century and aftermath of the Civil War. I’m looking forward to visiting the Milliken’s Bend and Grant’s Canal memorials next time I’m driving across I-20.

In the Way: Church As We Know It Can Be a Discipleship Movement (Again) by Damian Gerke

Another good book on how Disciple Making Movement practices can and should be adapted in the West. I’m going back through this one again very slowly. Much to chew on in this book.

The Story of Joseph Willis by Randy Willis

In the early 1800’s, Joseph Willis started the first evangelical churches West of the Mississippi River. Born a slave in the Carolina’s, Joseph Willis answered God’s call to go west. He endured much to deliver the Gospel to harsh Louisiana. Great story of perseverance. Churches planted and pastored by Joseph Willis are still in existence across south Louisiana today.

They Turned the World Upside Down: A Storyteller’s Journey with Those Who Dared to Follow Jesus by Charles Martin

Fiction writer paraphrases and stories his way through the early church. Always good to hear some new and creative perspectives on the Bible.

Teche: A History of Louisiana’s Most Famous Bayou by Shane K. Bernard

The Teche Bayou runs from Port Barre to Patterson. 125 miles and a lot of history along the banks. Includes the story of an ancient people groups, plantation life, civil war ironclad battles, and the changing nature of transportation and commerce in the south. Good book for anyone who loves south Louisiana.

Movements That Change the World: Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel by Steve Addison

5 Universal Keys to Spreading the Gospel and Starting a Movement:

  1. white-hot faith
  2. commitment to the cause
  3. contagious relationships
  4. rapid mobilization
  5. adaptive methods

Love Steve Addison’s books, and all his resources at movements.net.

Books Worth Reading: January 2021

Completed a few good books in January. Hoping to get back above 50 books this year after a down year in 2020. Check out these five when you get a chance.

The Rescue: Seven People, Seven Amazing Stories… by Jim Cymbala

Always great to be reminded of the power of the Gospel to transform. Jim Cymbala shares seven great testimonies of God’s power to save.

The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi by Richard Grant

I’ve always loved Natchez. This book goes deep into some of the stories, scars, and scabs of the last 200 years. Didn’t know that Natchez voted against succession from the union. Didn’t know that there was an African warrior prince enslaved in Natchez for 40 years. Get to know the bitter and sweet story of a favorite southern town.

Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win by John M. Perkins

Compelling book on reconciliation and racial justice. Refreshing to hear the gospel driven worldview on racism and its solution from a true man of God who spent his life in the trenches of the civil rights movement.

Problems of Christian Leadership by John R.W. Stott

From a series of lectures John Stott gave to ministerial students. Stott shared from personal experience of the every day challenges of a life in ministry. Short book. Worth reading every year.

Why You Think the Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home by Glenn S. Sunshine

Great summary of worldviews through time from a Christian perspective. Became acquainted with Sunshine after reading The Kingdom Unleashed. This book is academic in nature. But accessible.

What are you reading?

A Viral Outbreak from Asia

T4TCatching up on some reading this week. You know why. Lol! Reading about another Viral Outbreak that came to us from Asia. Ying and Grace Kai’s Training for Trainers: The Movement that Changed the World. There are several books about T4T, but this is actually Ying’s side of the story. Very instructive to get the heart of the author and orchestrator of a movement that in 10 years, led to 1.7 million baptisms! (and that’s just the ones they know about). This movement has spun off many other expressions of the same kind of principles and practices that Ying Kai began with a group of 30 farmers in 2000. The beauty and the secret of T4T is simplicity. Simplicity leads to reproducibility. Simplicity and reproducibility are key ingredients in viral movements. Considering a reset in your ministry, this book will get you thinking!

The simple step-by-step process:

  1. Develop a list of unsaved people in your network of relationships.
  2. Teach your group how to tell their story, repeatedly practicing to become fluent in sharing their story.
  3. Teach the story of Jesus, repeatedly practicing to become fluent in teaching the story of Jesus.
  4. Have them commit to share their story and the story of Jesus with five people each week.
  5. Don’t encourage the growth of one small group, but train everyone to become trainers of their own small group.
  6. Never give up on anyone.

T4T type disciple making should be the commitment of every Christian, but leaders in this movement concede that only about 20% of people that are trained will follow-up with obedience and action. This is only for doers of the word. But how much time and energy do we spend trying to keep and attract those who only hear. T4T helps you develop a vision for discipling those who have the capacity and heart to disciple others.

Here are just a few of the quotes that jumped out at me:

  •  We are always inviting people to come to our church…. But Jesus said we are to go and find lost persons.
  • It is not until one can train others that they can grow into a true disciple.
  • Share the gospel with at least five people each week.
  • I may say that I am a Christian, but if it is only knowledge of the truth and I have never really worked in the kingdom of God, then I am just a nominal Christian and not a true kingdom citizen.
  • It is our duty to sow seeds broadly and we should not limit where and when we sow.
  • God sees our heart to serve and not how talented we are.
  • Too much discussion leads to no action.
  • Keep things simple so that anyone is able to do it and everyone is willing to do it. Once things begin to get complicated, people start to put it off and not do it.
  • We should not encourage them to bring others into our small group. We are training them to become a trainer. They must start and train their own small groups.
  • So long as Christian perceive of discipleship as knowledge or simply doctrine, they fall short of the life-changing, world-changing power of true discipleship.
  • In every community with whom we share the gospel, there will be men and women who are already under the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
  • The Great Commission instructs that we are to go, not invite them to come to us; that everyone is to be engaged in attempting to reach everyone, everywhere; and we are to make disciples, not just church members or converts.
  • Whatever is taught, it should not be a knowledge dump, but training simple enough so that the new believer can grasp and replicate what has been taught.
  • The real test of success is the trainee taking what he has learned, and training a fellow believer…
  • The relationship with God will lead to an international outflow of gospeling and discipling.

What’s Next for the Church in 2020 and Beyond?

WhatsNextDave 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:

On Millenials:

  • 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?

The Mobilization Flywheel

FlywheelI 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. 

How would Luke (author of Acts) describe the church today?

“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.

Break the Huddle

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.

The Mobilization Flywheel: Creating a Culture of Biblical Mobilization, page 13

Resources for Today’s Struggles

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?

 

 

Feeling Like An Epic Failure?

FailFailure 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. 

You are a Link in a Chain

“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

%d bloggers like this: