Some Reading

I was thinking that my head is full and messy right now.  I described it recently as having my mind placed in a food processor.  I have so many things to say to you all that I could not possibly ever share it with you all.  What more, there are people who are much better at that than me.  You need more and I thought I would compile some things that I have been reading and recommend them to you.  The purpose to simulate you and to bring you all in the conversation and journey that God has for us and hopefully by God’s grace allow us to share who Jesus is with our generation clearly, compelling and convincingly.

I have grouped them according to three categories.

  1. Church Leadership & The Church of the Future.  Every leader in the church in this world who is grappling with this question right now: what does the church of the future look like?  What does this period of time teach us?  How are we supposed to adapt and change?  What is coming and how can we be prepared for it?
  2. Keeping Yourself Spiritually Healthy.  In our present age of instant gratification and consumerism it is hard to live out the way of Jesus.  There are some leaders and authors who are sharing their approaches to rediscovering the way in this age.
  3. Understanding Our Times.  For the scholars and thinkers among you: what are the unique features of our culture in the West, how did we get here, how can we do mission in our age?  How should we shape our liturgy, evangelism, services, outreach to reach this generation?

All of these books are available to loan from Redeemer.  Please send me an message and I can pass it on to you when it is available.

Church Leadership & The Church of the Future

If you are going to be a leader in our church, you are going to want to get your head around the ideas in these books, namely: the priority of personal revival, the striving for a biblical church and the power of multiplicative thinking.

Reappearing Church

What if the rise of secularism is good news for the church?

For decades, we set our hopes on technology, politics, and the appearance of peace. We wanted to believe we were headed somewhere better–that progress was happening. But now as our technology ensnares and isolates us, our politics threaten to tear us apart, and our cultural decline continues to accelerate, people are understandably distressed.

But throughout history these periods of decline traditionally precede powerful spiritual renewal–and even revival. What if all the bad news in this world is actually good news for the church?

Discover why there’s reason to be wildly hopeful and how to prepare yourself and your church to be a part of renewal now and in the future.

Dean’s Description: A call to arms to seek personal revival and renewal which will transform the church.

Letters to the Church

If God had it His way, what would your church look like?

The New York Times bestselling author of Crazy Love challenges readers to be the Church as God intends.

  • Do you want more from your church experience?
  • Does the pure gospel put you in a place of awe?
  • Are you ready to rethink church as you know it?

Sit with Pastor Francis Chan and be reminded that you are a part of something much bigger than yourself, something sacred.

In his most powerful book yet, Chan digs deep into biblical truth, reflects on his own failures and dreams, and shares stories of ordinary people God is using to change the world.

Chan says, “We’ve strayed so far from what God calls Church. We all know it. We know that what we’re experiencing is radically different from the Church in Scripture. For decades, church leaders like myself have lost sight of the inherent mystery of the Church. We have trained people sitting in the pews to become addicted to lesser things. It’s time for that to change.”

When Jesus returns, will He find us caring for His Bride–even more than for our own lives? Letters to the Church reminds us of how powerful, how glorious the Church once was … and calls us to once again be the Church God intended us to be.

Dean’s Description: Former mega-church pastor Francis Chan brutal take down of the failure of the American (also Western) church to follow the biblical model of what church should be.

Hero Maker: Five Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders

Everybody wants to be a hero, but few understand the power of being a hero maker.

In Hero Maker you will learn how to bring real change to your church and community by developing the practical skills to help others reach their leadership potential.

Drawing on five powerful practices found in the ministry of Jesus, Hero Maker presents the key steps of apprenticeship that will build up other leaders and provides strategies for how you can activate gifts, help others take ownership, and develop a simple scorecard for measuring your kingdom-building progress.

Besides rich insights from the Gospels, Hero Maker is packed with real-life ministry stories ranging from paid staff to volunteer leaders and from established churches to new church plants. A practical tool accompanies each of the five practices, with several illustrations for how to use it.

Whether you lead ten people or ten thousand, Hero Maker will not only help you maximize your leadership, but in doing so you will also help shift today’s church culture to a model of reproduction and multiplication. Authors Dave Ferguson (a Chicago pastor and church planter) and Warren Bird (an award-winning writer) make a compelling case that God’s power and purpose are best revealed when we train and release others, who in turn do likewise.

Become that rare breed of leader who brings change into our world by sacrificially investing in others who become the heroes. By becoming a hero maker, you will join a movement of influencers that are impacting hundreds, thousands and perhaps millions of people around the world.

Dean’s Description: Transformed my thinking about the role of leadership and what actually God has called us to do as those who lead.  We are there to make heroes, not be them.

Keeping Yourself Spiritually Healthy

I don’t think you are imagining it.  Life today is faster, less patient and more demanding than it was five years ago, ten years ago, or further back.  I remember when waiting a week for a package was normal, now I am furious if it is does not arrive the next day.  What happened?  The advent of faster and more portable computers and the omnipresent smartphone rocketing our productivity and wealth but has warped and sapped our souls of their life.  If we want to lead in this time and be fruitful for Jesus we need to remain spiritually healthy and connected with Jesus in the maelstrom that is 21st century city life.  These books point us towards a new and yes, somewhat slower way.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

“Who am I becoming?”
That was the question nagging pastor and author John Mark Comer. Outwardly, he appeared successful. But inwardly, things weren’t pretty. So he turned to a trusted mentor for guidance and heard these words:

“Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life.”
It wasn’t the response he expected, but it was—and continues to be—the answer he needs. Too often we treat the symptoms of toxicity in our modern world instead of trying to pinpoint the cause. A growing number of voices are pointing at hurry, or busyness, as a root of much evil.

Within the pages of this book, you’ll find a fascinating roadmap to staying emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world.

Dean’s Description: Great book, a must read for anyone who is sick of trying to be a Christian in our age of speed.

The Burden Is Light: Liberating Your Life from the Tyranny of Performance and Success

A NYC pastor and global influencer inspires readers to find their most meaningful and purposeful life. Surprising to many, this life is not measured by success, comparison, or accolades. Rather, free and joyful living stems from a God-centered celebration of our union with Christ and the lives of those around us.

Jon Tyson’s exploration of the reverse economy of the kingdom frees his readers from merit-based living…not just in terms of salvation, but daily, earthly value. Life is not meant to be a series of competitions or a survival of the fittest rat race. Yet so many of the messages around us, so many of the voices bombarding our hearts and minds tie up our value and package it with our accolades.

This book gives another way forward. It shows readers how to value their individual lives based on what God says about them, rather than how they measure themselves against the world. This is a must read for each and every person trying to find their voice and purpose in a loud and frenetic world.

Dean’s Description: A short book and easy to read and will work on your heart.  This book speaks about several key elements of our times and how Jesus’ way points to another direction.  A challenge for us to lay down the burdens we are placing on ourselves.

Plugged In

Whether it’s TV boxsets, Instagram stories or historical novels, we all consume culture. So it’s important that we are neither bewitched by it–buying into everything it tells us–or bewildered by it–lashing out in judgment or retreating into a Christian bubble.

Dan Strange encourages Christians to engage with everything they watch, read and play in a positive and discerning way. He also teaches Christians how to think and speak about culture in a way that plugs in to a bigger and better reality–the story of King Jesus, and his cosmic plan for the world.

It’s possible to watch TV and read novels and play video games in a way that actually feeds our faith, rather than withers it. It’s even possible for you–yes, you–to be that person who starts off talking to a mate about last night’s football and ends up talking about Jesus.

So be equipped to engage with culture in a way that helps your relationship with Christ and points others to him.

Dean’s Description: I am still waiting for this one to arrive, but I am keenly interested…any book with a Foreword by Tim Keller cannot be that bad, right?

Understanding Our Times

Here in the Netherlands and across the Western world, we live in a post-Christian secular society.  Secular in the use here can be summed up as an environment where unbelief in God or gods is a possible and consistent belief system.  Our secular society, how it was formed and how it functions, is necessary for us to understand if we are going to be active in bringing secular people to faith.  It is also necessary to understand how these cultural forces come and shape those we are trying to disciple into the way of Jesus.  Know Thy Enemy!  So we can love them in Jesus’ name.

A Secular Age

What does it mean to say that we live in a secular age? Almost everyone would agree that we–in the West, at least–largely do. And clearly the place of religion in our societies has changed profoundly in the last few centuries. In what will be a defining book for our time, Charles Taylor takes up the question of what these changes mean–of what, precisely, happens when a society in which it is virtually impossible not to believe in God becomes one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is only one human possibility among others.

Taylor, long one of our most insightful thinkers on such questions, offers a historical perspective. He examines the development in “Western Christendom” of those aspects of modernity which we call secular. What he describes is in fact not a single, continuous transformation, but a series of new departures, in which earlier forms of religious life have been dissolved or destabilized and new ones have been created. As we see here, today’s secular world is characterized not by an absence of religion–although in some societies religious belief and practice have markedly declined–but rather by the continuing multiplication of new options, religious, spiritual, and anti-religious, which individuals and groups seize on in order to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations.

What this means for the world–including the new forms of collective religious life it encourages, with their tendency to a mass mobilization that breeds violence–is what Charles Taylor grapples with, in a book as timely as it is timeless.

Dean’s Description: For the brave and the bold, around 800-900 pages of florid philosophical prose containing quite a bit of French.  This tomb took me over a year to get through, but I do have young children and lead a church, you may well have more time for it.  It needs nibbling and digesting, but will reward those who take the time to dig into it.  Not to be taken as gospel truth, but he has wonderful insights on the underlying thought patterns of our age and how we got here.

Our Secular Age

Probably no book published in the last decade has been so ambitious as Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. He seeks nothing less than to account for the spread of secularism and decline of faith in the last 500 years.Now a remarkable roster of writers-including Carl Trueman, Michael Horton, and Jen Pollock Michel-considers Taylor’s insights for the church’s life and mission, covering everything from healthcare to liturgy to pop culture and politics.Nothing is easy about faith today. But endurance produces character, and character produces hope, even in our secular age.

Dean’s Description: This book is written by evangelical Christians who have been inspired by Charles Taylor’s work A Secular Age, writing from a different viewpoint to Taylor more closely with our own, they critique and commend various aspects of Taylor’s analysis of our secular age.  I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in understanding the secular mind.

How (Not) to Be Secular

How (Not) to Be Secular is what Jamie Smith calls your hitchhiker’s guide to the present — it is both a reading guide to Charles Taylor’s monumental work A Secular Age and philosophical guidance on how we might learn to live in our times.
Taylor’s landmark book A Secular Age (2007) provides a monumental, incisive analysis of what it means to live in the post-Christian present — a pluralist world of competing beliefs and growing unbelief. Jamie Smith’s book is a compact field guide to Taylor’s insightful study of the secular, making that very significant but daunting work accessible to a wide array of readers.

Even more, though, Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular is a practical philosophical guidebook, a kind of how-to manual on how to live in our secular age. It ultimately offers us an adventure in self-understanding and maps out a way to get our bearings in today’s secular culture, no matter who we are — whether believers or skeptics, devout or doubting, self-assured or puzzled and confused. This is a book for any thinking person to chew on.

Dean’s Description: James K. A. Smith is one of chief popularizers of Charles Taylor’s work A Secular Age in evangelical circles and read this if you want to avoid 800-900 pages of philosophy.