Book Review

Quote from Timothy Keller “Preaching”

However, while the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as well as the preacher. The message in Philippi came from Paul, but the effect of the sermon on the hearts came from the Spirit.

Timothy Keller – Preaching

This morning I started Timothy Keller’s book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism. I will be posting more on the book but so far I really love the break down of the three levels of Word ministry.

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Books on my shelf

10629658_10152205019986370_6670124045181772431_nThe books that I have recently finished, or I am currently reading. Also on this list would be “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek which I blogged about here.

 

What books are you reading right now?

 

Everyone wins when a leader gets better. – Bill Hybels

 

Review and Look Back at “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek

 

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – George J. Flynn

 

leaders-eat-lastI truly struggle with leadership. I struggle living in the tension of wanting to be the person described at the beginning of Simon Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last,” and the person who I know that is not perfect. It is the tension of leading others towards a vision and knowing that I screw up multiple times everyday. It is this tension that causes me to doubt my own leadership skills and drives me deep into these types of books.

 

First and foremost this book was great. I loved how it bounced between real world stories of leaders who lead well and others who I am glad I do not work for. The negative leaders were not bashed, but looked at as examples for how to create a work environment that is lacking both a circle of safety as well as a culture that does not promote innovation and creativity.

 

I also believe this was a great book for ministry leaders who work in environments that require a lot of community thinking, innovative ideas to lead others towards Christ and to equip those individuals in our congregation. The warning that Simon brings forward in regards to leading through dopamine highs only is truly transferable to ministry life. We get an energy boost through high attendance, new members, great one off events, and 500 new Likes or Shares this week on our social media pages. These quick shots of dopamine are great for moral at times, but they lack the long lasting effects of leading as many people to Christ as we can. The in depth look at leadership through the chemical releases in our body is one of the best parts to this book. It is an easy way to read the words on the page and implant your own experiences towards those feelings. It also makes the reader more aware of what chemical release is their primary driver. The scientific look at how trust and commitment are formed through the chemicals in our bodies was fascinating.

 

“Too many of our environments in which we work today frustrate our natural inclinations to trust and cooperate” – Simon Sink

 

A huge chunk of this book is designed to illustrate the need for a circle of safety within your organization that allows the workers to become creative, innovative and open without fear of being replaced, down sized, or forced out.

 

“A company of strong character will have a culture that promotes treating all people well, not just the ones who pay them or earn them money in the moment. In a culture of strong character, the people inside the company will feel protected by their leaders and feel their colleagues have their backs. In a culture of weak character, the people inside the company will feel that any protection they have comes primarily from their own ability to manage the politics, promote their own successes and watch their own backs…”

 

I truly believe this 100%. I cannot tell you the creative liberty I feel when I know that I can share openly and honestly around our table meetings. That freedom to do ministry in new ways helps us feel like we can impact the lives of our families in new and better ways. It makes me believe that the kids coming through our ministry will see Jesus come to life in their own life in new and meaningful ways. It all begins at that table and the circle of safety that in created within the organization. I love the meetings where new ideas come to life.

 

“Leadership is about taking responsibility for lives and not numbers.” – Simon Sinek

 

There is a great section near the back of the book that looks at the differences between the generations that make up the work force.

 

Baby Boomers ————— Generation X ————— Generation Y

 

There is no blame placed for the lack of great working environments, but the look at the genetic make up of organizations based simply on the differences in these three generations of people shows that atmosphere’s of unrealistic expectations, simple ignorance between generations, stereotypes that become labels that cannot be shaken and in some cases stubbornness becomes the norm. The key I think is to know people by their personal traits and not the traits that have been placed upon their generation. People are more than a label.

 

I will end this look back with a quote that I found hit the nail on the head.

 

“It is not the work we remember with fondness, but the camaraderie, how the group came together to get things done.”

 

Strong teams build strong ministries and in the words of Simon Sinek leadership is not a ticket to do less, but a responsibility to do more.

 

 

 

5/5 and a must read for everyone who is a part of a team, and anyone who interacts with people on a regular basis.

 

 

Book Review – Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity

by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Oftentimes, parenting can be a struggle full of love. Rather than being another “how-to be a better parent” book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity focuses on how parents can fortify their parenting capacity by engaging their family in God’s story to the world. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity also has a wealth of helpful insights for those who are hoping to be parents one day, those who are preparing to soon be parents, for grand-parents, those who work with parents, have friends that are parents, or for those that are influencers in children’s lives.

The core of the book is divided into five key family values.

1)      Widen the circle

2)      Imagine the end

3)      Fight for the heart

4)      Create a rhythm

5)      Make it personal

Biblically based from Deuteronomy 6, the values and verses work hand-in-hand. Moses discusses in Deuteronomy 6 that God intended for family and faith-community alike that it takes a village mentality to raise spiritually-healthy children. Through this partnership of family and community mentors, God’s bigger story begins to unfold:

“Your children one day will seek affirmation and approval from adults other than you. Either you can become intentional about enlisting other trusted adults to influence your kids, or you can depend only on your limited capacity. You can leave them alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them protectively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.”

If our kids engage Christ with genuine and excited hearts, there is an even better chance that the family relationship can be used to witness to other friends and family – to a world that yearns to be restored. Honorable mention: There is no guilt trip regarding your parenting skills. The authors’ hope is to share the concept that the goal of parenting is not to impress others with your amazing parenting skills, but it is to instill within your children the love and nature of God.

The Story Teen Edition Curriculum Review

The Story Teen Edition DVD Curriculum

First off, the creativity in the story clips is very refreshing. The clips are concise, eye-catching, and easy for teens, or pre-teens in my case to refer back to. I have used a few of these story clips so far with different groups of students and have found that starting with The Story video clips and then following up with some questions that ask students to explain what they saw has been very helpful for them. The clips allow the students to see a broader context of multiple chapters,or even books of the Bible in a short period of time which allows them to see God’s larger story playing out.

Michael Novelli has seen that when teens experience a story, as opposed to it being told or shown to them, they absorb and remember it more thoroughly. This DVD offers youth workers a new way to engage teens in the grand narrative of the Bible.

One of the downfalls for me was that some of the clips cover a large portion of scripture, so it makes using these clips outside of the curriculum very difficult. For example, if you were teaching a 3 week series on Nehemiah, or Revelation there is only one clip that covers these works. Also, the miracles and parables of Jesus are also covered in one section. This is only a minor flaw for me because it goes outside of the intended use of the curriculum, but for a small, or none existent budget for some youth groups the re-usable ability of the clips could be very important.

However, what you do get in this curriculum is very impressive.

The DVD Contains:
31 video sessions (including additional Recap and Rewind videos)
Reproducible Teacher’s Guides for 31 weeks including Reading Scripts
Reproducible Student handouts
Subtitles (please use subtitle option and not the CC option on your tv or DVD player)

The handouts are great and they ask the students to interact with the story with all their senses. This is fantastic for all the learning types that can be found within any group of students. They can draw, listen and engage in simple question formats and I have found that the artistic outlets with this curriculum, especially in a camp setting make this a must for any Jr. High group.

The students are asked to engage the story that they have just heard and to timeline the events, but they get to choose the character whose point of view they would like to focus on. I have had students draw out the major points of Nehemiah’s story from Nehemiah’s criticizers point of view. I love the creativity that this curriculum draws out and it is written in a way that allows this to flow naturally.

As a leader you get a scrip of the story that is a paraphrase of the passages that are covered. We have used these to act out stories as well as to read in a large group setting. I have found that reading has not brought out the creativity and if you are teaching from the front of the room knowing the story so that you can tell it without the script allows for greater use of the students imagination.

Script from Session 15 – God’s Messengers

You also receive a student handout and this is where there is a clear intention to include all learning types. Students are asked on these handouts to engage the story in three ways.

1) See the story.

See the story – Session 15

2) Hear the story.

Hear the story – Session 15

3) Join the story.

Join the story – Session 15

The last written piece that is at your disposal as a leader is the Teacher Guide. The guide is full of scriptural references, context and  personal preparation suggestions. It then breaks down how to break down 75 minutes in order to get the most out of the curriculum. It timelines each step of the night as a guideline for you that allows you to place more emphasis on the key areas that you would like to focus on within your group. You can emphasize prayer time, teaching time, engagement, or small groups as this is meant to be a tool not a rule to go by.

Part 1 –  Rewind

  • Intro and prayer, video of the previous week and brief response
  • 5 Min

Part 2 – See the story

  • Explanation and handout, session video, create symbols, share symbols with group
  • 10 min.

Part 3 – Hear the story

  • Story reader scripture reading, student response to scripture, break into small groups.
  • 25 min

Part 4 – Join the story (small groups)

  • Discuss story, create personal responses, share the response, closing prayer.
  • 35 min.

There is an even more detailed breakdown for a typical session in the Teacher Guide that is really helpful. I have found that this helps volunteers manage their small group time and to keep the focus on the scripture. I do think that if small groups are a focus in your ministry there needs to be time built into the schedule that allows for time for personal sharing of the weeks activities for the students.

I would recommend that any youth group that wants to teach on the metanarrative, or even any group that is looking for an affordable curriculum. You can find the DVD curriculum for around 50 dollars in most locations and can be found on The Story website. One perk is that you can teach this curriculum without any of the other Story products as the scriptures are given to you. I would give this curriculum a 8/10.

Review – The Gospel According to Jesus

The book centres itself at least in my perspective around the term “shalom.” Chris Seay uses this term to describe this state of restored relationship with God and with those around us. For the author are all called to live in and embrace others in shalom and help others find shalom in their own lives.

The gospel is the good news that God is calling out all people to be redeemed by the power residing in the life, death, and ultimate resurrection of Jesus the Liberating King. These ‘called-out ones’ are rescued from a life of slavery, sin, and failure to become emissaries in a new kingdom set to join the redemption of the entire creation, groaning and longing to be redeemed. 49

I really did enjoy this book and I found that it did challenge me in my faith and how I live it out everyday. However, that being said I found it to be a difficult read as I found myself losing interest at times. I found that odd because it was not as if it was not helpful, or interesting, I just found that it was a book that you would read a bit and then set it down to think over the challenges that were laid before you through the words of the author.

Chris Seay is attempting to right a misunderstanding between understanding the true meaning and actions that define a righteousness. The conversation and I would say the conclusion that Seay came to is that the majority of church going individuals define righteousness through their understanding of morality and not through the message of the gospels.

The best simple translation of the word righteousness is ‘restorative justice.’ God is stepping into our brokenness and making things right, taking fragments shattered by sin and restoring them to fullness. The reality is that God is calling us to take part in his glory, which comes from heaven to earth, and to live in his abundance, together. Seeking his righteousness is about being an active agent for his restorative justice in all of creation. 12

I will say that I did lose most of my interest at the end of every chapter when their was a manuscript of an interview between one or two individuals and the author. At first I liked the premise of this idea, but I found that they did not provide the necessary ah ha moments for me that I hoped a practical discussion around the chapter would have provided.

I really enjoyed the discussion on how we can jump the gun and call things of this world, or individuals evil without thinking through what the connotations of that statement really represent in the eyes of God.

Modern Christians have taken a previously integrated world and subdivided it into the sacred or secular, physical or spiritual, good or bad, profane or religious—categories that do not serve us well because they are simply untrue. God created the physical, and that makes it uniquely spiritual. The so-called “bad people” are also created in the image of God. 146

The author wants the reader to imagine seeing people as “shalom” or “broken shalom” rather than good or bad. If you see them as broken shalom, you’re not allowed to look down on them; instead, you are called to join God in his redemptive work in their lives.

I would not say this is a must read. I probably would not have read it if I had not heard him speak at a conference I attended, but I wanted to go deeper into his ideas of righteousness and shalom.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com&gt; book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html&gt; : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Comic Vine’s Top 100 Batman Universe Stories – Comic Vine

As a huge Batman fan and the upcoming release of the new Batman film this list is a great place to start catching up on your Batman history. I have read the top ten and the latest “Court of Owls” story line would make for a great movie. The continuation of this story in “Night of the Owls” if done right will be in the top ten and could even crack the top five.

 

Comic Vine’s Top 100 Batman Universe Stories – Comic Vine.

April Reading List

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings

I know it is weird to want to read a book all about the love of geography, but that is exactly why I read it. I love old maps and I could study them for hours on end. This book plays right into that love. Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame, goes into detail about why we are drawn to maps in our youth, but usually fall out of love with them as we age. It was a very insightful read, but I would not recommend this to everyone. The topics are relevant to everyone as it deals with everything from searching for belonging to our strong senses of curiosity and adventure, but the geographical roots make it a tough read for anyone to pick up and read on a bus.

Each chapter delves into a different aspect of map culture: highpointing, geocaching, road atlas rallying, even the “unreal estate” charted on the maps of fiction and fantasy. Jennings also considers the ways in which cartography has shaped our history, suggesting that the impulse to make and read maps is as relevant today as it has ever been.

Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray

This was a find on my Kindle as I was writing on depression for a project that I am working on. The cover caught me I am not going to lie, but the content was surprisingly helpful for numerous reasons. First off, it is a look at why Christians can get depressed, but it is not written by a specialist. That makes reading the content and the facts that he cites easier to read as he talks about depression in a casual, yet informed way. Think of it as a depression 101. The book is just over 100 pages and chapters include.

In six short chapters Murray carefully and concisely writes about the (1) Crisis, (2) Complexity, (3) Condition, (4) Causes, (5) Cures, and those who (6) Care for those who are depressed.

There are also great references to additional material on depression from both Christian and secular material. I really enjoyed the look at depression through the lenses of mental, spiritual, emotional and physical contexts. A great quick read for anyone in ministry to get an understanding of depression and its roots.

Re-Read The Nehemiah Factor: 16 Characteristics of a Missional Leader by Dr. Frank Page

The layout of the book is very logical as it takes the reader on a journey from an original calling to ministry to the final victory of a successful ministry and relationship with God, with all the Godly steps needed to fill in the holes of any wishful missional leader. For myself, the chapter entitled A Missional Leader is a Person of Christlike Concern establishes itself well beyond the rest. It creates an atmosphere that the reader can call into question – motives, callings and purposes of vision – without making one feel overwhelmed or inadequate in their leadership skills. Instead, it allows the reader to make personal connections into the missional ideals of Nehemiah and Jesus in order to enhance the skills and hindsight with which they entered the chapter. The book, primarily, does a fantastic job at clearing up questions about the whole missional movement. Answering these questions that many leaders have about the whys and hows of a true missional church will only further understanding. For instance, I have used the chapter on communication for my camp staff to help them understand the importance of it in a leadership position within a missional driven ministry.

March Reading List

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I would recommend this book to anyone in youth ministry. The dialogue between characters about what makes one pretty, or not is worth the read alone. There are some great sections in this book that would be very useful when we teach our youth on self image and self worth.

“We’re not freaks, Tally. We’re normal. We may not be gorgeous, but at least we’re not hyped-up Barbie dolls.”

The book centres around Tally Youngblood and her upcoming surgery to become pretty. Every teen when they turn 16 in Westerfeld’s series is turned from an ‘ugly’ into a ‘pretty.’ Tally cannot wait to become a ‘pretty’ until she meets a new friend that challenges everything that it means to be pretty. The story is not that original, but the questions asked in this book are phenomenal. I would recommend this series over The Hunger Games.

“Or maybe when they do the operation- when they grind and stretch your bones to the right shape, peel off your face and rub all your skin away, and stick in plastic cheekbones so you look like everybody else- maybe after going through all that you just aren’t very interesting anymore.”

The book takes place in a futuristic setting of our world and there is a great conversation between Tally and her friend about the celebrities that we would look at as beautiful. Her reaction to their looks as she flips through a magazine is priceless. 5/5

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get IT and Keep IT. by Craig Groeschel 

What I liked about this book is that it was open and honest about the type of things that we chase in ministry and leadership that are not important, or take us away from our greatest task.

I believed we needed our own building and all the other things real churches have—like a sports ministry, concerts, conferences and our own church van. I thought those important elements would give us it. Then we’d be a real church. Little did I realize, we already had it. God was doing something very special. Lost people were being found. Found people were growing. The church was spiritually vibrant. All without any of the things I thought necessary.”

Having these types of things in our ministry are not a bad thing, but when they start to contradict or work against the vision of the church there is a problem. This book looks to help leaders steer clear of that. For me the the selling point for this book is the continual challenge towards kingdom building first. It is not about YOUR ministry it is about the vision of the church and how Jesus is always at the forefront. A great leadership book that is worth a read. 4/5