Month: March 2010

I Am Not But I Know I Am by Louie Giglio

I have to say I was a little disappointed about this book. I found it to be a little repetitive in its content, and too simplistic. After watching the Passion Talk DVD’s, it seemed like I heard this before. If I hadn’t watched the series first, the book probably would have had more of an impact.


The main point to take from the book is that when God declares himself “I Am” to Moses, God is “I Be.” The phrase “I Am” translates to “Be” and when, as Giglio points out, we come to an understanding of that, God become much bigger then we could ever imagine. We need to come to an understanding that God is big and we are really, really small. Embracing the idea of smallness needs to be more than a one time proposition, or settling to us, it needs to be a daily sacrifice to God. We need to sacrifice our pride and realize that God’s story was already in process before He ever created humanity, and He created us to worship Him, not ourselves. Everything God does, He does to glorify himself, so that we may be reminded about the wonderful mystery that He is.


I did enjoy the breakdown of “Be,” and its new found understanding as a prefix in beloved, or became. Essentially, God is saying I am love, or I came. This changes as Giglio works through the beatitudes, so that they become “Be Attitudes”


Even though it is a quick read, my suggestion would be to watch the Passion Talk series as the visuals enhance the teaching that the book provides.


Experiential Storytelling: (Re) Discovering Narrative to Communicate God’s Message – by Mark Miller

Miller asks a new question:


How do we meet and intersect with our youth and their experiences? In a world that questions facts, and where new experiences are needed in order to keep our youth engaged, there needs to be a shift in teaching styles.


This book provides any leader with every step that is needed to make a change. Everything from teaching outlines, how to provide an experiential setting for learning, and how to engage every thinking and learning style after the narrative is read is included and can be used for life application.


Miller suggests that experiences, which are interactive and relational, should be the basis for ministry as it will engage and educate. Even with all of this, there is something more. This type of ministry places trust in the learner so that they can wrestle with the narrative and derive meaning that speaks to their experiences. This is the beauty in teaching from a story foundation. It allows for teaching to become more missional – it allows teachers to teach like missionaries do. By engaging their culture, speaking their language, and becoming apart of their community, personal experiences are enabled and there is a greater emotional attachment to Jesus’ story.


He asks a very poignant question:


“Do we trust our people and the Holy Spirit enough to allow them to think for themselves?”


From a jr. high standpoint, are we willing to allow experiences to begin and form without seeing the fruit of our work? Are we willing to allow the high school, or young adult ministry to be the final stages in personal decision to follow and live like Jesus?


Experiential Storytelling is just that – creating experience from sharing our story and, more importantly, God’s story with those around us. This book is a must-own for any leader that wants to teach from a “storying”  perspective as it will provide guidance, application, and insight into this wonderful form of communicating.

The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are In An Age Of Self Obsession


Disclosure of Material Connection: This book was received free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.


The title is a mouthful…


“The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are In An Age Of Self Obsession”


…but if you can look past the length, the title gives away some great insight. First, Mark Sayers is going to base everything he says biblically, faithfully and with a strong theological basis. Second, we are obsessed by our own narcissistic views and, thirdly, how he can help. I love long titles so far as they hold true to the book. This does it perfectly.


When it comes to content, watch out Perez Hilton, we may now have a new king when it comes to celebrity culture. Sayers nails it on the head: We are obsessed with being sexy, cool and glamorous, but that leaves us with nothing more than idolatrous viewpoints of those around us that we see as cool, sexy and glamorous. In the end, we strive for the mystery that comes with these labels, but instead of looking up to the eternal mystery that comes from God, we look out to the horizon to seek out how we can best fit in with those around us.


We have stopped looking up at God to find who we are (based on the created order that God himself declared as good). We see the world and creation as tainted and can no longer seem to piece together the “Christian” and “Society” puzzle pieces that we wrestle with everyday. We can’t be sexy if we are Christian, can we? Well, God made everything including what we view as sexy, so sexy is good. It is what we do with the desires and understanding of sexy that is bad. When we throw around words like cool, sexy and glamor without thinking, they lose all meaning. When we can check our desires under the Lordship of Christ, in community, in their worthiness and by the fruit they produce, we begin to live once again as a vertical being seeking our meaning in God.


Mark Sayers’ book illustrates that a life sought out in the horizon of our lives is tiring, wasteful, meaningless and without any input into the society to which we so desperately want to feel connected. I saw this because the images we try to perfect in order to be accepted are constantly changing. It does make more sense to allow the cool, sexy and glam lifestyle to come out naturally. Those who truly have it are comfortable in their own skin – they live looking upwards.


Being holy does not have to be dorky. It does, however, consist of looking up to our creator and finding our order in creation.


Any youth leader should give it a read, or even use it as a study as the study guide in the back provides a great starting point for any accountability group.

Telling God’s Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation – John W. Wright

A crushing blow to individualism.

The church should move from being a therapy session for individuals and become a peculiar people within society… A “people-group” that does not exist outside of culture, but witness to the grander story of God.

The question of the book becomes: How do you move as a church from being therapy to individuals, but translate people’s lives into the biblical narrative to portray and live apart of the body of Christ? This book becomes more than a how-to of preaching, it becomes a life-changing calling for preachers to move their congregations into partakers of the biblical narrative.

The Eclipse of the Biblical Narrative, a movement looking at the role of narrative, is re-told by Wright to show how North American churches ended up preaching the individualism of Scripture. The church became a place for individuals to get away from the busyness of their week, the stress of the office – basically, the church became a therapeutic centre of individual needs. It was not a community, but a…

Help me overcome, help me move past… Help ME.

The body of Christ was now individual body parts all moving to their own individual needs. The solution became a new message to the people, a movement of sorts that takes away this individual mentality and moves towards community. After all, in community can we only help each other.

The movement starts by moving towards a tragedy, the tragedy of the cross. Tragedy brings enlightenment, understanding, a new narrative. Is that not what the cross accomplished? A brighter hope, a new horizon, and a new narrative to the lives of those partaking in it?

In the individual context of Scripture, the narrative becomes skewed.

The individual turns to scriptures for assurance that he or she really is living within this spiritual path that leads to individual eternal bliss in heaven.

– Wright on Frei

If that is what we are turning from, then what are we being turned to? Well, first we must realize that we are apart of an ongoing story – that starts with creation and will end with God’s reign – but we are not there yet. Wright provides three turning points that we need to acknowledge in order to join the story:
[1] Acknowledge the contemporary horizon (worldview) of a congregation as they have been formed by the culture around them

[2] An anchor to move horizontally around the contemporary horizon

[3] Head in a new direction

These three steps allow for a turn towards the wonderful good news of living amid God’s story. I truly appreciate the fact that the author does go beyond providing the typical three-step solution, as he gives a whole chapter’s worth of hands-on teaching examples of how to turn your congregation toward a worldview that does not separate them from culture, but allows them to be visible witnesses through their newfound ability to have a worldview that is considered peculiar. In a strange way, this moves the congregation into the status-quo, allowing for their narrative to lie outside the lies they are fed everyday.

As I finished the book, I began to see the point. The biblical narrative is not a how-to negotiate the so-called secular divide of personal life, or even how to live a cushy life. The biblical narrative is an awakening to become one of God’s elect, to witness his love, as a partaker of God’s creation and as a witness that may require an element of suffering. For me, this quote sums up the key focus of Wright’s book:

The church does not exist so that individuals might seek intimacy with others, themselves of God. The church exists as a people, a distinct people, whose witness can bring opposition from the world through the fact of its nonconformity, but whose communal life provides concrete, embodied resources for support amid the resultant suffering.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone that does any form of teaching within the church. It gives a great formative history of the decline of teaching within the church, but it also provides examples that can help turn a congregation into strong witnesses of Christ’s work. It may be heavy, but the rewards and resulting call to God’s story are well worth it.