|Date:||April 20, 2022—April 22, 2022|
Caribe Royale Orlando
|Location:||8101 World Center Drive
|Registration:||Click here to register.|
|More Info:||Click here for more information.|
|Date:||February 22, 2022—February 23, 2022|
|Event:||Child Discipleship Summit|
|Topic:||What if the Gospel is more powerful than we think and secularism is weaker than we imagine?|
|Venue:||Embassy Suites by Hilton|
|More Info:||Click here for more information.|
This year I finished my master’s degree work at Knox Seminary. It was a five-year process, and I loved every bit of it. The one downside was that I was so busy reading books for my classes. All the required reading for those classes was phenomenal. I enjoyed them all. The downside was not the content of the books I was required to read but the fact that my personal want to read stack only grew and grew over five years. This year I set a new personal best in terms of books read but would add in terms of content the books I read this year were probably the best I have read. To narrow down my top 10 is no easy task. Here is my attempt
10 – Caring for the Souls of Children – Amy Baker This is book is a must-own for anyone who works with kids or has kids of their own. I have never read a book that has, at its core, the practical tools to help kids in difficult circumstances matched with strong gospel application.
9 – Reappearing Church – Mark Sayers – Mark Sayers is one of the few people out there who has a real grasp of the emergence of the intersection of secular culture and the gospel and how we can live faithful lives in exile.
8 – The Princess Bride – William Goldman – As someone who would watch The Princess Bride rewind and watch again during the age of VCR’s. I have seen TPB more times than I can count. I have the entire movie memorized. Massive Princess Bride fan was expecting to love the film more than the book, and I liked them both. As a fan of the film, the book filled in some things that were left out of the movie, but the performances by the actors in The Princess Bride make it one of my favorite movies of all time.
7 – Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – I have become a huge Jane Austen fan. With some persuasion from Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, I have begun to read her corpus of work. Her understanding of Christian virtue placed in the context of story is as powerful as it is enjoyable.
6 – Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton – My classics professor once said that reading a classical work for the first time only prepares you to read it for the first time the second time you read it. This was true with several classic pieces I have read and reread. Orthodoxy was no different. I found the second reading more enjoyable and thought-provoking than the first reading. I love this quote from Chesterton
“God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”
5 – Run with the Horses – Eugene Peterson – I am a huge Peterson fan. His style of writing is powerful, profound, and poetic. Run with the Horses is no different. I read this book devotionally as I read through the book of Jeremiah. This book came at a very timely season of life and ministry where I needed to hear the message of Jeremiah and apply it to my heart.
“The most important thing in Jeremiah’s life was God – not comfort, not applause, not security, but the living God. What he did fear was worship without astonishment, religion without commitment. He feared getting what he wanted and missing what God wanted.”
4 – Under the Unpredictable Plant – Eugene Peterson – This is a book from Peterson’s 3 part book series for the vocation of pastoral ministry. In Under the Unpredictable Plant, Peterson tackles the vocational Holiness of the pastor and his congregation. Although this book was written thirty years ago, it has more relevance today than the day it was written. In this book, Peterson calls pastors to live lives set apart and holy and, in turn to call their people to do the same.
“It is interesting to listen to the comments that outsiders, particularly those from Third World countries, make on the religion they observe in North America. What they notice mostly is the greed, the silliness, the narcissism. They appreciate the size and prosperity of our churches, the energy, and the technology, but they wonder at the conspicuous absence of the cross, the phobic avoidance of suffering, the puzzling indifference to community and relationships of intimacy.”
3 – Secular Creed – Rebecca Mclaughlin – In this short but powerful book Rebecca lovingly and biblically dissects the creedal mantras of our current secular moment. This book must get in the hands of our students in Middle School, High School, and College. Our kids are being inundated with the narrative that to be loving, we must proclaim Black Lives Matter, Love is Love, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, We are all Immigrants, and Diversity Makes Us Stronger. McLaughlin takes care to loving address these truths with care and truth. She tells her children that
“we, as Christians, we believe that black lives matter because they matter to Jesus. We don’t believe that love is love but that God is love and that he gives us glimpses of his love through different kinds of relationships. We believe women’s rights are human rights, because God made us – male and female – in his image; and for the same reason, we believe that babies in the womb have rights as well. We believe God has a special concern for single mothers, orphans, and immigrants, because Scripture tells us so again and again. And we believe that diversity does indeed make us stronger, because Jesus calls people from every tribe and tongue and nation to worship him as one body together.”
All I can say to that is amen and amen.
2 – The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self – Carl Trueman – Trueman does a masterful job weaving history, philosophy, and theology together to paint a brilliant picture for us of how we have come to the secular age. Dr. Trueman explains how we have arrived at this moment by way of the sexual revolution. He explains that we have come to be a society that is captivated, motivated, and completely devoted to the idea of expressive individualism. His cultural analysis is dead on. He believes that his book introduces the discussions we need to have in our culture today. I would argue he lays out a template for dissecting and engaging our modern mess. He states in the conclusion of his introduction,
“My aim is to explain how and why a certain notion of the self has come to dominate the culture of the West, why this self finds its most obvious manifestation in the transformation of sexual mores, and what the wider implications of this transformation are and may well be in the future. Understanding the times is a precondition of responding appropriately to the times. And understanding the times requires a knowledge of the history that has led up to the present.”
1 – The Pastor as Minor Poet – Craig Barnes – This was the best book I have ever read on pastoral ministry. It was by far the best book I read this year. Barnes’ work is a brilliant reminder that pastors, we must define our lives and work by what the gospel calls us to do. If we don’t clearly define what it means to be a pastor, we will invariably allow others to do this for us. Unfortunately, the present job description of the pastor is formed more by the cultural elements of pragmatism and leadership ideas than by the biblical framework of faithfulness set out for us in Scripture. Barnes says, “contemporary pastors are tempted to measure their success, not to mention fulfillment, precisely by how well-liked they are. That is because even the clergy function in a society that defines individuals and certainly leaders by their ability to fulfill expectations.” Every pastor and their spouse should read Pastor as Minor Poet. For the church to be the church pastors, must understand what it means to be a pastor.
“It isn’t necessary for poets to have experienced in their own lives every tragedy that their parishioners will encounter. Of course. But it is very necessary for poets to know exactly what it feels like to have the world cave in, and then to be startled by the discovery of a resurrected life based solely on the work of Christ.
This means that parish poets have to pay attention to their own lives. They must go after their own life experiences and plunge into them in search of sacred meaning rather than run from the pain or numb themselves with busy distractions. How else can they awaken parishioners to the mystery at work within their own lives?”
- Family Shepherds – Voddie Baucham
- Ten Words to Live By – Jen Wilkin
- True Community – Jerry Bridges
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Is Christmas Unbelievable – Rebecca Maclaughlin
- Confronting Christianity – Rebecca Maclaughlin
- Lead – Paul David Tripp
- Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
- The Answer – Randy Pope
- The Prodigal God – Timothy Keller
- The EOS Life – Gino Wickam
- Faith for Exiles – David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock
- The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket
- The Reptile Room – Lemony Snicket
- The Wide Window – Lemony Snicket
- The Miserable Mill – Lemony Snicket
- The Austere Academy – Lemony Snicket
- The Ersatz Elevator – Lemony Snicket
- The Vile Village – Lemony Snicket
- The Hostile Hospital – Lemony Snicket
- The Carnivorous Carnival – Lemony Snicket
- The Slippery Slope – Lemony Snicket
- The Grim Grotto – Lemony Snicket
- The Penultimate Peril – Lemony Snicket
- The End – Lemony Snicket
- How to be a Great Boss – Gino Wickman
- Pastor – William Willimon
- Rocket Fuel – Gino Wickman
- Traction – Gino Wickman
- Men and Women in the Church – Kevin DeYoung
- Resilient Ministry – Bob Burns
- The Making of Biblical Womanhood – Beth Allison Barr
- Holiness by Grace – Brian Chapell
- Christianity and Liberalism – J Gresham Machen
- The Princess and the Goblin – George McDonald
- Term Limits – Vince Flynn
- Garden City – John Mark Comer
- Fault Lines – Voddie Bauchman
- Embodied – Preston Sprinkle
- Freedom – Sebastian Junger
- Revival God’s way – Leonard Ravenhill
- The Bomber Mafia – Malcolm Gladwell
- The Roots of Endurance – John Piper
- Out of the Depths – John Newton
- The Horse and His Boy – C.S. Lewis
- Gospel Eldership – Robert Thune
- Like Father Like Son – Pete Alwinson
- A Readers Guide Through the Wardrobe – Leland Ryken
- No Man Left Behind – Patrick Morley
- A Burning in my Bones – Winn Collier
- InSourcing – Randy Pope
- Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Conversion and Discipleship – Bill Hull
- Gospel-Centered Discipleship – Jonathan Dodson
- The Abolition of Man – C.S. Lewis
- Volunteers that Stick – Jim Wideman
- The Masterplan of Discipleship – Robert Coleman
- Family Discipleship – Matt Chandler
- 10 Books Every Conservative – Benjamin Wilker
- The Princess Bride – William Goldman
- Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeares
- The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis
- Slaughterhouse-Five – Kirt Vonnegut
- The Hallelujah Banquet – Eugene Peterson
- The Inferno – Dante Alighieri
- A Children’s Bible – Lydia Millet
- Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen
- The Brothers K – David James Dunkin
- The Clouds – Aristophanes
- Engaging Critical Theory and Social Justice Theory – Dr. Neil Shenvi
I have been a part of the children’s ministry conversation for over 20 years. Several years ago, I was in a conversation with a few friends where we coined the term “Kidmin.” Initially, I saw the issues of parent involvement in the discipleship of their kids as an issue that was founded in children’s ministry leaders setting themselves as experts. Saying, in essence, “drop off your kids; we know what to do.” Like most things, we swung from one extreme to the other. We have gone from a kid pastor as discipleship expert to a kids pastor as cheerleader model. How we engage with parents needs to change.
We have all championed parents as primary in the discipleship process for the past several years. However, we need to move from that model. It’s not that it’s inaccurate, but it’s incomplete. It’s one thing to champion the message “Parents are the primary disciplers of their kids.” It’s a whole other thing to carry this out in a biblical, faithful way that leads to a lasting faith in kids.
Much good has come from this message and focus! However, there have also been some unintended consequences. I think parents as primary in the discipleship of their children has produced a disengagement by church leaders in the discipleship process. It has also produced a lack of trust by those who lead in the church in the power and place of the church in the life of those we lead.
Before he left, the charge from Christ was to make disciples; the vehicle he chose for that to take place was the church. This in no way is a diminishment of the family. Still, I believe it is an understanding that our families are not a substitute for the church. Our families are to be a reflection of the church and agents of the church. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave himself for her. We in the church are to love each other as dear brothers and sisters. Our families should be like a little church, and our churches are to be like a little family.
The church has never been more necessary than it is today. Many things have changed during the covid pandemic; one of those things that have changed is there has been more conversation around ecclesiology, what the church is, and what her role is. Going forward, we need to change our language and structures in how we talk and how we lead.
Ever since George Barna wrote his book Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, this idea and message of “parents are the primary disciple-makers of their kids” has been the prevailing narrative in children’s ministry. So as I type this following sentence, I do so in full awareness of just how much I’m going against the grain…but here it goes.
We need to move away from language and actions that say parents are primary and move to parents as partners. Now let’s unpack this a bit.
What do Parents as Partners Look Like?
- Parents as partners is not us supplying resources and parents doing the work. It is us as a church discipling the parents and us as a church discipling kids and parents. Then, parents take what they have seen and experienced and, in turn, disciplining kids at home.
- Parents as partners know the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit as primary and our work in home and church as equally necessary.
- Parents as partners see the goal as helping kids live lives of obedience and imitation of Christ, not simply the outward manifestation of good or moral behavior. What does that look like? Eugene Peterson would call it “A long obedience in the same direction.” Bill Hull would say that “Discipleship occurs when someone answers the call to learn from Jesus and others how to live his or her life as though Jesus were living it. As a result, the disciple becomes the kind of person who naturally does what Jesus did.”
- Parents as partners mean we have a shared goal and a shared vision of whom their kids are becoming. Parents as primary leaves parents to decide what is the summum bonum or greatest good for their child. It has led in many ways to the subtle and sometimes not so subtle idolatry of the family.
What needs to change?
We need to change our church culture. We must help parents see that the church is our family, that God is our father and that we living in community through intentional relationships will become the kinds of people who naturally do what Jesus did.
Our language needs to change. Christ is primary, and we are secondary. Church (the Bride of Christ…which families are a part of) is our primary family. Our families should be a living example of parents and kids walking long obedience in the same direction. The goal of our families is not happiness in this life but to point to a greater reality. Our families are a good gift that we are to enjoy and that form us into the image of Christ, but they are not the substance.
The chief good and the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. As a church, we must model this for our parents and kids so that we together may become the kind of people who naturally do what Jesus did.
In a culture where fear is ever-present and all-pervasive, we turn to almost anything to find comfort and to find help. There are a million things to be afraid of thanks to the internet and COVID; that number has tripled.
One of the most repeated phrases in scripture is “fear not” “Do not be afraid.” It’s almost as if the God who created us knows us and knows that much of what we do is driven by the blasphemy of pessimism. This idea is that things are worse than we imagine that things will not end well and that the worst possible thing that can happen will happen. We are plagued by these doubts all the time. Daily we read of people who are being oppressed and killed around the world we know people around us who are struggling with addictions and sorrows. People we love dying of covid, cancer, and suicide takes a toll on our soul.
The answer that we are given to combat this fear is false optimism. We are told to think happy thoughts, to avoid people with negative energy. In the church, it isn’t much better. Many famous churchmen say that positive confession changes things that our words create in the same way God created the world with his word. We are given the same false optimism the world offers only in attractive wrapping paper called faith.
The problem with the false optimism the world offers us is that it avoids the difficulty through distraction. The problem with the false optimism the church offers as Chesterton says is that it tries “to prove that we fit in to the world.” We have an idea of how the world should be and to avoid the blasphemy of pessimism we settle for a cheap false optimism. We see the broken world needing mending a world and a life that if not cared for can be lost. We fail to see and understand that this world and this life were never ours they were never our possessions. They are signposts of another world.
Gerard Manley Hopkins says it this way.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
Our world is filled with the grandeur of God, charged with his glory. It isn’t great because He created it but because it continues to carry the beauty and glory of who he is from beginning to end. Its job is to point us to what can really help us in the middle of pandemics and pain. We are not citizens of this world. We were made for another world. This world despite the evil that men have done that despite the world bearing the smell of man and his sinful self-inflicted pain.
Hopkins finishes his poem this way:
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Hopkins says despite our best attempts to destroy the world we live in God’s creation is “never spent.” We have hope in two things. The first is that the God who created this world broods over it saturates it with his grace. God is watching over our world he is not distant he is close he is “bent over” not standing afar off and he ordains all things according to the counsel of his will. You are not your own and you are not alone.
Chesterton in Orthodoxy helps us from 100 years ago telling us that we were made for another world.
“The optimist’s pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring.”
The second is this world is not our home and our lives are not our own. When I heard I was in the wrong place my soul sang for joy. So powerful. If you have put your faith in Christ you are in the wrong place. So much of the fear we experience comes from a fear of losing was is temporal and failing to see that our lives are eternal. The revelation that this world is not our home and our lives are not our own should produce in us contentment in this life and at the same time discontented homesickness for the next.