Bookmark this and save it for your next conference (or weekly meeting). It’s not easy to find good, upbeat, CLEAN music. Look at the top songs of 2016 – 1 out of the top 10 could be played at a weekly meeting. The rest are explicit.

I put together the playlists we play before and after meeting at our 2017 Cru Winter Conference.
And I thought it might save you all a lot of time to share those on here.
A couple notes:
  • We aim for 10 minutes of music while students come in (at night, we do 9 minutes followed by 1 minute of an epic “sit down song” – for the last couple of years we’ve used “Waking Up” off of the Oblivion soundtrack)
  • 5-6 minutes of music while students walk out
  • For the after meeting playlists, make sure to have a song that starts strong. It’s the signal for students to get up and leave, so you want it to start loud, not ease into it.
  • Pre-meeting night meetings, we aim for upbeat, danceable songs (hip hop and pop-py sing-along songs that people know)
  • Pre-meeting morning meetings, same thing, just a little more chill – Ride by Twenty One Pilots is a perfect morning pre-meeting song. Everyone knows it. Kind of upbeat. But not too obnoxiously upbeat.
Here’s all the songs we used in one playlist:

Here they are:
Here’s a slew of songs to use during a refection times:
And a bunch of possible songs you could use for competition games during the meeting (like, we do a mattress surfing competition, etc). I can’t vouch for all these being clean/appropriate (like Bangarang is great til he drops an F-bomb at the end):
And here’s some other good songs that we didn’t use but are appropriately clean and upbeat:

Every college student you’re trying to reach is a millennial. More than likely, your team of college ministers is made up of millennials (millennials were born between 1982 and 2004)

This is brilliant stuff from Simon Sinek on leading millennials. He’s talking about leading them in the workplace. But it applies just as well to leading and reaching millennials on the college campus. Well worth 15 minutes of your time (I typed up some notes below):


Simon describes four things Millennials are up against:

  • Parenting – too many of them grow up under failed parenting strategies. They were told they can achieve anything they want in life if they just believe in themselves. That they were special. You take this group and they get a job and they are thrust into the real world where they learn that they are not special and that there mom can’t complain to their boss to save them.
  • Technology – We have an entire generation that has access to an addictive numbing chemical called dopamine through social media and cell phones as they’re going through the high stress of adolescence. We’re supposed to learn to rely on our friends during adolescence but through unfettered access to technology too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships. Millennials don’t have deep, meaningful relationship because they’ve never practiced the skill set. And worse, they’ve never developed coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So when significant stress shows up in their lives they are not turning to a person they’re turning to a device. If you’re sitting at dinner with your friends and you’re texting somebody who’s not there, that’s a problem, that’s an addiction.
  • Impatience – they’ve grown up in a world of instant gratification (Amazon next day, Netflix, etc). You wanna go on a date? You don’t have to practice that skill, you just swipe right. Everything you want you can have instantly. EXCEPT, job satisfaction and strength of relationships. There ain’t no app for that. Those are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes. So I keep meeting these wonderful, fantastic, idealistic, hard-working smart kids. They just graduated school and they’re in their entry-level job. I sit down with them and I go “how’s it going”. And they go “I think I’m gonna quit. I’m not making an impact.” I’m like, “You’ve been here eight months!” It’s as if they’re standing at the foot of a mountain and they have this abstract concept called impact they want to have in the world which is the summit but what they don’t see is the mountain. What this young generation needs to learn is patience- that some things that really, really matter like love, job fulfillment, joy, or self-confidence. All of these things take time. The overall journey is long and difficult.
  • Environment – we’re taking this amazing group of young kids who have been dealt a bad hand. And they’re getting put in companies that care more about short term gains than life long skill-development and a lifetime of impact. That aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and helping them overcome the need to have instant gratification and teach them the joys and impact and the fulfillment you get from working hard over on something for a long time that cannot be done in a month or even in a year. It’s the company’s responsibility to work extra hard to build their confidence and social skills. There should be no cell phones in conference rooms. When we are waiting for a meeting to start, no cell phones. Looking at your cell phone up until the meeting starts- that’s not how relationships are formed. Trust is built in those conversations before the meeting starts.

Some quick thoughts:

  • One of college students’ primary needs is deep, meaningful relationships. What if we promo Summer Missions or Small Groups with: “want more deep, meaningful relationships but don’t know exactly how to accomplish that…” We have what students deeply long for- gospel-centered community.
  • We need to coach our students in how to build relationships and trust. One easy step – resolve to put your phone away when you are on campus. Look for people to talk to on the way to campus. Strike up conversations once you get to class. That’s how trust and relationships are built.
  • We should be teaching students a Biblical approach to technology
  • With our interns and new staff, we need to keep the long term vision in front of them – keep reminding them that world change doesn’t happen in a year or two – but over decades.

HT to Dan Allan for passing this video on to me!

Top 3 Posts of 2016

January 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

Want the cream of the crop? Here’s the most popular posts on my blog in 2016:

Top 3 Posts Published in 2016

Top 5 Old Posts that Google Search Seems to Like:

  1. Why You Shouldn’t Go to Seminary (lesson: clickbait titles work!) – by far the most popular post on my blog in 2016, even though it’s 5 years old
  2. Decision Making and the Will of God (lesson: lots of people are searching Google for God’s Will. Think about that for a minute.)
  3. We Are Losing an Entire Generation of Laborers to Student Loan Debt 
  4. Tim Keller on How to Get into Gospel Conversations
  5. Learning from Large Cru Movements

Top Songs of 2016

January 1, 2017 — Leave a comment

An annual tradition on my blog – My Top 100 Songs of the Year.

To further explore amazing music, here are my Top Songs from 201520142013201220112010 and 2009 (click “Follow” at the top of Spotify if you want to add any of the playlists to your sidebar of playlists)

There weren’t any clear “song of the year” candidates in 2016. I like every song in the top 8 equally.

2016 was the year of experimental/weird indie pop – with Yeasayer, Animal Collective and M83 all turning in a slew of great songs. Also really liked Phantogram’s album. But really, 2016 was Twenty One Pilots‘ year. By FAR my kids’ top album of the year. And as much as I’m a hipster music-snob and pretty much hate anything that is on the radio, I begrudgingly REALLY like Twenty One Pilots. Easily the best album of the year. Every song is different and good. Those two dudes have a knack for crafting perfect pop songs. AND their lyrics are super solid – with most songs referring to God.

Despite my hipster tendencies, my top 100 songs are actually really fun to listen to. If you follow indie music at all, you’ll find that most “Top Songs of The Year” are trying really hard to be cool and prove their hipster-ness. My Top Songs list is Indie Music for the Masses – Indie Music that’s actually enjoyable to listen to (not grating avant-garde or sleep-inducing-singer-songwriter).

Most of these songs are Indie-pop, Indie-rock, or Indietronica.

Here are my 100 favorite songs of 2016 (click to play individual tracks or here to play the full list in Spotify): 

100        Family And Genus – Shakey Graves

99        Swim Against the Tide – The Japanese House

98        The Moment – Tame Impala

97        Arizona – Frances Cone

96        Everything All At Once – Local Natives

95        Crazy Eyes – Brother Moses

94        Strangers – Psychic Twin

93        Gemini Feed – Banks

92        Waving Goodbye – Sia

91        Sunday Love – Bat For Lashes

90        Do You Remember – St. Lucia

89        Prophecy Gun – Yeasayer

88        Gold – Jorgen Odegard Remix – Imagine Dragons, Jorgen Odegard

87        Dead Alive – The Shins

86        Wings of Love – LIV

85        Time – Mint Royale, Tom Cane

84        LIFE – HEALTH

83        Drifting – On An On

82        Way To Go – Empire of the Sun

81        Never Going Back – Caveman

80        Cheap Thrills – Sia

79        The Sound – The 1975

78        Silly Me – Yeasayer

77        I Can Only Stare – Sleigh Bells

76        Human – Caveman

75        Free – Broods

74        80 West – Caveman

73        All in My Head – Porcelain Raft

72        Club Aso – Palmistry

71        Two Vines – Empire of the Sun

70        I Was Wrong – A R I Z O N A

69        Celestial Creatures – Wild Beasts

68        For U (feat. Charli XCX) – Miike Snow, Charli XCX

67        8 (circle) – Bon Iver

66        May I Have This Dance – Francis and the Lights

65        A 1000 Times – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

64        High And Low – Empire of the Sun

63        Ablaze – School Of Seven Bells

62        Choose Me – James Blake

61        Bird Set Free – Sia

60        Don’t Let Me Down – The Chainsmokers, Daya

59        Broken Glass – Sia

58        I Feel The Weight – Miike Snow

57        Gone – Day Wave

56        Way Back Home – Cameron AG

55        Here’s To Us – Ellie Goulding

54        Lane Boy – Twenty One Pilots

53        22 (OVER S∞∞N) – Bon Iver

52        Easier – Mansionair

51        Conrad – SOHN

50        Tear In My Heart – Twenty One Pilots

49        I Need A Forest Fire – James Blake, Bon Iver

48        Same Old Blues – Phantogram

47        Sledgehammer – Rihanna

46        Mother Emanuel – Local Natives

45        Turning a Hand – Francis

44        Past Lives – BØRNS

43        Run Run Blood – Phantogram

42        Past Lives – Local Natives

41        Burn the Witch – Radiohead

40        Radio Silence – James Blake

39        Get Right – Jimmy Eat World

38        American Money – BØRNS

37        River – Bishop Briggs

36        Heathens – Twenty One Pilots

35        I Need Your Light – Ra Ra Riot, Rostam

34        Turn It Around – HAERTS

33        Warrior – AURORA

32        Doubt – Twenty One Pilots

31        Friends (feat. Bon Iver) – Francis and the Lights, Bon Iver – favorite part= “I’m Francis!”. Worth watching their goofy music video featuring Kanye

30        Chariots – Paper Route

29        In a Black Out – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

28        What Is Left to Solve – Rogue Wave

27        Cruel World – Phantogram

26        Golden Gal – Animal Collective

25        Divine Simulacrum – Yeasayer

24        If You Should See – Wye Oak

23        Hocus Pocus – Animal Collective

22        Trouble – TV On The Radio

21        Fairly Local – Twenty One Pilots

20        33 “GOD” – Bon Iver – pretty disappointed with Bon Iver’s album, overall. But a few solid songs.

19        You’re Mine – Phantogram

18        Malachite – Lydia Ainsworth – Lydia opened for Yeasayer when we saw them this fall in Tulsa and had some great songs. Eagerly anticipating a full length album from her.

17        Loan Shark Blues – Yeasayer

16        Ride – Twenty One Pilots

15        Warning Call – CHVRCHES

14        Lying in the Grass – Animal Collective

13        You Don’t Get Me High Anymore – Phantogram

12        Polarize – Twenty One Pilots

11        Used To – Mutemath

10        Watching the Waiting – Wye Oak – got to see Wye Oak in Kansas city this summer. She’s super talented and amazing live.

9        Fountain Of Youth – Local Natives – this song reminds me of the crazy election season with it’s lyric “I have waited so long, Mrs. President”.

8        Go! (feat. Mai Lan) – M83, MAI LAN

7        I Am Chemistry – Yeasayer – you’ll never hear a better song about the gas C4H10FO2P (sarin gas) and other toxic chemicals

6        Dream Awake – LIV – an early single from one of my most anticipated albums for 2017 from supergroup LIV – made up of two of  my favorites, Lykke Li and Miike Snow

5        Do It, Try It – M83 – give this song a chance. Super weird at first progressing to what M83 does best – epic soundscapes

4        FloriDada – Animal Collective – another super weird song. But you can’t help but have a smile on your face and tap your toes as you listen to it. And surprisingly deep song on the Dadaism and the elite’s snobbery toward Floridians.

3        Take Me Home – Phantogram – easily the best cover song this year. Who knew Phil Collins could be so cool?

2        Hometown – Twenty One Pilots – a great song from the best album of 2016. They did a smaller concert in NW Arkansas (which is an absolute miracle – NO ONE comes to Arkansas). I took all 5 of our kids to the show and they LOVED it (It was a few days after we got back from our summer in East Asia so we didn’t have tickets – we just scrounged up a few at the gate!). Those two dudes are legit entertainers and great musicians. My kids wouldn’t let me play anything but Twenty One Pilots in our van ALL fall. Seriously. “DA-AAD, can you put on Twenty One Pilots – this music is boring!”

1        Cold Night – Yeasayer – we got to see Yeasayer in concert in Tulsa and they were absolutely amazing – cementing their status as our #1 alltime favorite band. I thought their new album was pretty disappointing – but still a few gems on it.

Would love to hear – What were your favorite songs from 2016??

4278335002_3e90e703c3_mNothing has been better for my consistency in God’s Word- leading to greater intimacy with God and understanding of Him- than reading through the Bible each of the last two years.


I think the reason it is so helpful is simple, in the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne:
“Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read. Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple manner.”


That’s it. Not having to decide what I’m going to read every morning- I just open up and let the calendar tell me what to read – is enough to reduce the friction on the tracks to get me going.


Some tips and helpful tools:
  • Use a plan where you read from multiple parts of the Bible every day- that keeps you from getting bogged down in more difficult books (I’m looking at you Major Prophets). The Navigators and Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading Plan are excellent. The Navs plan has 25 days/month to give you some grace days. M’Cheyne’s method is everyday and reads through the NT and Psalms twice in a year, which I modify to read the NT and Psalms only once – which makes it more like 2-3 chapters/day instead of 4 which I find to be more doable.
  • I highly recommend DA Carson’s For the Love of God Volumes I & II. Carson provides commentary and reflections on each day’s scriptural passages in the M’Cheyne plan. I just wake up and open up For the Love of God on my Kindle. It tells me what to read, and then gives me a brief commentary on what I read. It’s almost always insightful, and always short. For the Love of God is also available for free online.
  • My wife uses Dr. Constable’s FREE online Bible commentary as she reads through the Bible. Constable’s commentary is an unbelievable gift to the body of Christ – most commentaries are either unhelpful because they are:
    • too obvious/short or
    • too long/intense/parsing Greek
Dr. Constable’s is like a best-of-commentary: he does all the heavy lifting, reading all the commentaries and presenting to you the best of what he found to be helpful. He’s my go-to commentary when I don’t understand a passage and he almost never disappoints. Just google “Constable Philippians” or whatever book you’re reading and it will be the first Google result.
  • The Bible Project has phenomenal, short (8 minute) summary videos for every book in the Bible. They illuminate how each book of the Bible tells one story of redemption through Christ.
  • You don’t have to start at the beginning of the year in January. And you don’t even have to finish the Bible in a calendar year (though it IS very doable; and having a measure of my progress spurs me on to keep going and not fall behind).
  • I’ve written a short 2 page article on Spending Time Daily in God’s Word that gives a little more re the why’s and how’s.
I’ve had several friends push back on reading through the Bible in a year (RTtBiaY). They’ve said that it led them to duty instead of delight. They felt that they were merely checking boxes, rushing through the daily reading to get it done.


All I can say is that it has had the opposite effect for me. Maybe it’s personality differences. For me, RTtBiaY has been incredibly motivating and life giving. I’ve found it also helps to give yourself plenty of time: if you only have 15 minutes to read, RTtBiaY will feel like duty and a checklist. But if you have 30min-hour, you can really soak in the Scriptures.


I’ve found a regular time in God’s Word, making regular process plodding through the entire Bible does not produce a rut but freedom. John Piper offers great insight on routine and structure in your Quiet Time:
“If your longing is to be spontaneous in the way you commune with God, then build discipline into your Bible reading and prayer. It sounds paradoxical. But it’s no more so than the paradox of corn spontaneously growing in a Minnesota field because of the farmer’s discipline of plowing and sowing and guarding the field. He doesn’t make the corn grow. God does. But God uses his farming disciplines as part of the process. The rich fruit of spontaneity grows in the garden that is well tended by the discipline of schedule.”


Tim Keller, John Piper, my wife… All the great spiritual giants recommend RTtBiaY as a daily Quiet Time plan.


My only regret is that I haven’t been doing this for the past two decades that I’ve been walking with God. Early on in walking with God I read through the Bible annually. But somewhere along the way I stopped.


May we see Jesus more clearly in 2017 as we soak in God’s Word this year!


What tools and tips do you have that have helped you read God’s Word?


photo courtesy of Dwight Stone via Flickr
In his book The Conviction to Lead, Dr. Albert Mohler highlights reading as one of the keystone habits of leaders:
  • Those who would lead with conviction must read with conviction.
  • When leaders gather, books are usually part of the conversation.
  • Leaders are ravenous consumers of historical biographies.
  • Keep reading and developing the skill of reading over your lifetime. We can train ourselves to enjoy reading.
9435974561_815b1cb291_zInsightfully, Dr. Mohler identifies what I believe is the irreplaceable benefit of reading in the life of a leader:

“There is no substitute for effective reading when it comes to developing and maintaining the intelligence necessary to lead. Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading. We simply cannot lead without a constant flow of intellectual activity in our minds, and there is no substitute for reading when it comes to producing this flow.”

Reading keeps my brain flowing with a flood of ideas and intellectual activity. Part of it is that it plays into my strengths – especially Analytical (I like to connect the dots in information) and Ideation (new ideas are exciting to me). I really like chewing on and processing new ideas.

This year I read three times as many books as last year. And I can definitely see the impact on my ability to lead from vision and fresh ideas.


A lot of what reading has done for me is captured in this Tweetstorm from Patrick O’Shaughnessy:
  • I’m often asked how I read so much and how I choose books. So, my I’ll try my first tweetstorm
  • 1/ I love @naval‘s idea to ask yourself: what that you do looks like hard work from the outside, but doesn’t feel like work to you?
  • 2/ For me, one answer is reading. In most down time, I read.
  • 5/ A new book often makes you realize something essential about an old book.
  • 6/ This is why knowledge compounds. Old stuff that was a 4/10 in value can become a 10/10, unlocked by another book in the future.
  • 9/ Usually, it’s some combination of books that has a non-linear impact.
  • 11/ When you start out reading, you are collecting distant dots in a constellation with no apparent connection
  • 23/ Ten years in, I now have an incomplete but dense set of interconnected dots. It is my most valuable asset.
  • 25/ Reading gets more and more enjoyable the more you do it.
His whole tweetstorm is worth reading for great tips on how to organize book highlights (in Evernote) and other tips on reading.

One of the main things I discovered this year in greatly increasing my reading – A new book often unlocks an older book you read. The faint dots in the constellation suddenly become more clear. Reading multiple books opens up powerful connections. Simultaneously reading Masterplan of Evangelism and Movements that Change the World was incredibly helpful.

Several have asked me what helped me read more:
  • I sucked it up and subscribed to (a ridiculous $15/month). 16 of the 52 books I “read” this year were listened to on Audible. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to read more is to take advantage of dead time in my schedule – like driving and working out. 15 minutes here and there really adds up. I listen at 1.25x or 1.5x speed (depending on the narrator) and can get through a book every 3 weeks.
  • I started tracking what I read. For whatever reason, this really helped me. I like to keep score (I have ‘Competition- driven to win’ on Strengths Finder!)
  • I spent less time on Twitter (still a HUGE fan of Twitter though – see tweet storm above- Twitter spurs me on to be a better leader AND to read more books!)
  • I got up 30 minutes earlier and used that time to read.
  • For most of the year I read every night. A couple of years ago my wife introduced the new rule of “no blue light an hour before bed” = no checking twitter or reading online. I’m thankful for God’s grace through her! It made me take up the habit of reading before bed every night. A great side-effect: when my head hits the pillow I’m asleep in seconds.
  • I started asking every prodigious reader I know for book recommendations. Having a book I’m looking forward to makes me want to read more. And it has greatly increased the quality of the books I read – I’m reading the top books recommended by top readers.
I previously listed my Top 20 books list. Here’s some other good “best of 2016” book lists in which to find great books to read in 2017:
I’ve started piecing together books I want to read in 2017. One of my main goals is to increase the number of serious, Christian books. Much of my reading tends to be Audiobooks or light reading before bed – both lending themselves to an “easy reading” genre of fiction or historical non-fiction. I haven’t figured out a way to carve out more time to read books that require deep thinking and underlining/taking notes.

Here’s what’s on my list so far for 2017:
Devotional/Morning Quiet Time
  • Discipline of Grace
  • Courage and calling- Gordon Smith (Calling at different stages of life)
  • Gordon McDonald – Ordering Your Private World
  • The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine
  • Zeal Without Burnout (showed up on several best-of-year book lists)
  • The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson
  • The Art of the Commonplace – Wendell Berry
  • Switch – Heath
  • Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley
  • Epidemic of narcissism
  • The Starfish and the Spider
  • Wendell Berry – Hidden Wound (his personal story of having black servants)
  • The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism – Yuval Levin (showed up on several best-of-year book lists)
  • Invisible Man
  • Silence – by Shūsaku Endō
  • The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe
  • The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor
  • Undaunted courage – Lewis and Clark
  • Command and control- re nuclear security
  • A Winston Churchill biography
I’ll leave you with this “encouragement” from Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, nominated to be Secretary of Defense by President-elect Trump.

“Mattis’s colleague reportedly asked him about the “importance of reading and military history for officers,” who found themselves “too busy to read.’” 
He responded:
“The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience, i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men. We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession…
As a result [of my reading], the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.
Semper Fi, Mattis”
Read the full transcript here.
Sobering words.

What were some of your favorite books you read in 2016? What’s on your list of books to read in 2017?


image courtesy of Pimthida

The feedback we were hearing from our students was pretty unanimous –
They knew how to share the gospel. But they didn’t know how to get into gospel conversations with their friends.
One of our students, Laurel Sitton, compares leading someone to Christ to scoring a touchdown:
“When the offense goes out to try to score a touchdown, sometimes they’re 90 yards away. They might be able to throw a 90-yard pass and score a touchdown. That’s great, and everyone celebrates,” she says. “But that doesn’t happen very often. That’s kind of what it’s like to get to share the gospel and see someone come to Christ the first conversation.”
What is far more common is the offense slowly makes their way down the field getting first downs.
Laurel continues: “So in one conversation you might be 70 yards or 50 yards from getting to share the gospel with your friend, but all you’re looking for is a first down, not a Hail Mary”
+1 is our answer to helping students get more first downs in conversations with their friends. And what makes it GREAT is the momentum that comes from taking steps of faith together. 
The goal is for students to take the initiative with their friends to move them one step closer to Christ – no matter where they are starting on this scale:
We rolled it out at Fall Retreat (could be done anytime though). At Fall Retreat we wanted all 200 students to jump into the mission of God on campus- to have an easy, appropriate next step into mission. We wanted them to feel like “Anyone can do it. Anyone can take a baby step in evangelism.”
So on the last day of Fall Retreat we challenged everyone to write down 5 names of non-Christian friends to pray for. And then to follow 4 steps toward moving them one step (+1) closer to Jesus:
  1. Pray –  for your 5 non-Christian friends
  2. Befriend – your first step might be just to get to know them better. To ask them about their weekend. Invite them to watch football or go to the movie with you and some friends.
  3. Ask Spiritual Questions – often the easiest line of questions – “What’s your story? Where are you coming from spiritually? Did you grow up going to church? What did you think? How do you identify now with regard to religion?”
  4. Share the Gospel 
1 Minute Questionnaire
Each of those steps sets you up for equipping. Ask students you disciple which they struggle with the most:
  • Are you praying for your friends?
  • Do you know any non-Christians well enough to talk about real life?
  • Do you know how to get into spiritual conversations? What questions could you ask?
  • Do you know how to share the gospel?
Here’s where the momentum comes in- We then asked them to do three things every day for the next 5 days:
We created a Private +1 Facebook Group that we asked everyone to join. It’s been really encouraging to see students taking steps of faith and sharing/spurring each other on as students shared how their +1 convos went that day. It would be a great outreach to launch at Winter Conference.
We’ve found +1 to be a GREAT way to celebrate First Downs and not just touchdowns. We want to celebrate students’  steps of faith that move their friends one step closer to seeing Christ.
We’ve found that if students equate “success in evangelism” as “fully sharing the gospel and leading someone to Christ” then they will often bypass great +1 opportunities like a 4 minute walk from class to the Union or the 5 minutes before class. They can’t share the full gospel so they don’t take any steps of faith nor look for little open doors for spiritual conversations. Touchdowns never happen because they haven’t made any incremental first downs.
We need to help students learn how to incrementally move conversations and friendships toward Christ.
— The full, written-out Hail Marys vs First Downs in Evangelism analogy is linked – it’s great to use to cast vision for +1. —
“There needs to be a wonderful positive complex, mutually supportive, interdependent, relationship between the local churches and [specialized/parachurch] ministries.” Tim Keller


Beyond the Local Church by Sam Metcalf was the most thought provoking book I read in 2016. I didn’t agree with everything in the book. But it makes a compelling case for the necessity of so-called “para-church” and “local-church” to work together to make disciples of all nations.

If we are to finish the task of the Great Commission I think that it is essential that the local and missionary (para) church work together. I believe the college campus is the gateway to proclaiming Christ to the nations – therefore it’s even more important that we in college ministry partner well together.
I love to see the rise of churches reaching college students. But occasionally in a zeal for the “local church” reaching college students, parachurches are denigrated (I’d rather not cite examples because I’m looking to avoid denigrating them!).


That doesn’t have to be.


We can champion churches reaching college students AND celebrate parachurches that are reaching college students. We don’t need to speak badly of parachurches in order to celebrate the great new wave of churches reaching college students.


Parachurch ministries like Cru continue to reach more students than they’ve EVER reached. And churches are seeing more success in reaching college students than they’ve EVER seen. Both are GREAT things. May both increase and thrive and encourage and partner and share resources/ideas/strategies. So that EVERY student on campus is reached with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. So that millions of laborers are sent to the nations to proclaim Christ to the nations.


Steve Shadrach in “Church and parachurch – Friend of Foe?” states it well:
To pit “church” and “para-church” against one another is a mistake. We are all part of His Church. Some think that God had a “Plan A” where He preferred to reach the world through the local church, but somehow they couldn’t get it done, so He had to resort to “Plan B”, bringing in the para-church ministries to fill in and finish the job. My plea is that we work together as friends, not foes. Let’s create synergy by discovering and playing to each other’s strengths. The Lord of the Universe has called all believers to team up to complete His purposes on earth.


My local church – Fellowship Bible Church is a model of this. They started a college service this fall in our college town – Fayetteville. They sought me and other campus ministers to express their desire is to come alongside what is happening through Cru and other college ministries. They do not have the attitude – “[patting us on the head] Good news! The Local Church is here! You parachurches are no longer necessary”


They want to partner and work together to reach the 27,000 students at the University of Arkansas. Fellowship is intentionally platforming “parachurch” ministries – having us come to speak at their Sunday services, announcing our Winter Conference and Summer Missions opportunities from up front. And we are doing the same – inviting their pastors to speak at our weekly meetings and encouraging our students to plug into good local churches.


I agree with Sam Metcalf:
“When leaders— pastoral, lay and those leading apostolic structures— all get it, the resulting synergy that occurs from such a biblical, Spirit-directed interdependence is a tremendous thing to experience. And when it genuinely happens, the probability that the name of Jesus will be renowned among the nations…becomes more of a genuine reality.”


Linked is a 7 page “article” where I’ve copied a few of the key thoughts from Beyond the Local Church. I hope you find it as helpful and thought-provoking as I have.


Below are a few salient quotes from Beyond the Local Church:
True or False? If the Church Was Doing it’s Job, Para-churches wouldn’t be Necessary
It is my conviction that the future of the Christian movement depends on our ability to not just grasp these concepts, but to put them into action and to reengage the cultures around us with a holistic, biblical gospel. It is to live out in a contemporary setting the great truth articulated at Nicaea: “We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” As I hope to demonstrate in this volume, such a biblical and missional perspective is difficult, if not impossible, when we cling to a limited concept of the body of Christ that says the church in its local expression is all that’s valid.The design of God, from the time of the New Testament forward, has been to work through the local church and the church in its missionary form. The church in its apostolic, missionary form is just as equally “church” as the church in its local, parish form. God never designed or intended either to do the work of the other.
Parachurch is a dirty word
The term parachurch needs to be exorcised from our vocabulary. There is really no such thing. Either we’re part of the church or we’re not. And as we’ve seen from the Bible and history…the church is not limited to its local form.George Barna notes: “There is a pervasive mind-set among many journalists, scholars, and religious leaders that all legitimate spiritual activity must flow through a local church. Even large parachurch ministries that communicate with tens of millions of people, raise hundreds of millions of dollars, and impact lives all over the world are cast as second fiddle to the local church. It is almost as if their ministry efforts are deemed subpar simply because they did not originate from a congregational context.”

Throughout church history, I think it’s clear that when modalities and sodalities have worked interdependently and cooperatively, with appropriate freedom and a clear understanding of the roles and strengths of each, there have been great advances in the progress of the gospel. In order to accomplish the mission of the church, sodalities and modalities need each other in a symbiotic relationship.


Recently my bosses came into town for a campus visit. As we gathered, my team shared about what God is doing. They also shared of their need, their desires, and their pursuits.
Our staff team is made up of 4 independent, contextualized teams (see this excellent video from Intervarsity on contextualized movements). So on our team of 9, we actually have 4 teams:
  • 3 CFM staff (Campus Field Ministry – focused on the general population at the University of Arkansas),
  • 3 Athletes in Action staff,
  • 2 Bridges staff (International Students),
  • and 1 Impact staff (focusing on students of African descent).
The AIA, Bridges and Impact staff are Cru staff but they focus on athletes/international/African American students full time. They don’t come to our weekly meeting or fall retreat. They don’t do anything that doesn’t help them reach their respective audiences.
Even though we have a good size team of 9, every contextualized team feels small. And they acutely feel the need for more laborers. And in some ways, that’s really good. We only change when our current reality is painful enough to make us do the hard work required to change. Each contextualized team badly wants new laborers.
As they shared what they are doing to raise up new laborers, it hit me – it’s not up to me (as the team leader) to raise up an AIA female staff. Or an Impact staff or a Bridges staff. They’re doing it. They’re flying people in for vision trips. Not me. They’re taking key volunteers out to dinner, challenging them to join Impact staff. I din’t have to ask them to do that – I didn’t even know they were doing those things! They are truly leading. And (Lord willing!) laborers will be multiplied.
A couple weeks ago we had 3 separate thanksgiving meals that were a good snapshot of the exponential effect of multiple movements. Instead of one big meeting or dinner where maybe 100 CFM students would’ve gathered, we had:
  • 40 international students at the Bridges dinner
  • 30 athletes at the AIA dinner (which is low for them – they typically have 50-75)
  • 60 African american students at the Impact dinner
And in CFM, 200 students gathered in Community Groups across campus for thanksgiving parties and bible studies.
And that’s just on our campus. Across the globe, in East Asia we have 5 Razorbacks who hosted East Asian students for Thanksgiving. 5 sent staff who are very motivated to recruit laborers to join their team in EA.
Up until 2012, for the first 44 years of Cru at the University of Arkansas, we have had one team with one focus- reaching the majority culture at the University of Arkansas. In 2012 we had our first contextualized team – Athletes in Action – and we began to reach students at two nearby campuses (a four year university and two year college). This year, in 2016, our team spawned two more teams to focus exclusively on international students and African Americans.
Here’s how “ sending out” staff to reach new areas affected our staff team. Looking at the past decade of our staff team size, there are successive waves of increasing amplitude.
The seasons of lack actually seem to cause longterm growth. Why is that?
Pastor JD Greear  puts it well – “But here’s a principle we’ve learned that sustains us when our courage flags: sending out leaders creates more leaders. What you send out inevitably comes back to you in multiplied form.”
A small team forces you to do the things you want to do anyway – to avoid Ken Cochrum’s Two Movement Killers:
  • Movement-Killer #1 – Hasty (or No) Selection
  • Movement-Killer #2 – Staff Filling Their Schedule with 1-1 Appointments
Ken says that need is “a leadership vacuum that demands new leaders (&  gives real leadership experience to many)”. That has definitely been the case for us.
And it has come from:
  • sending first
  • sending our best
  • and sending until it hurts.
Four years ago we had 12 staff. Out of those 12, we “sent” 3 to do Athletes in Action full time (on our campus) and 2 began to heavily invest in launching other campuses – which means the next year we had 7 staff focused on CFM (the core movement) of the campus.
Last year we had 13 CFM (core movement) staff and 4 AIA staff. Out of those 13 CFM, we sent:
  • 2 of those to East Asia
  • 2 to do Bridges (international students) full time
  • 1 to do Impact (African American students) full time
  • 1 to do JESUS Film
We had several others finish their Cru internships or leave staff, which left us with 3 CFM staff on campus. 3 staff predominantly focused on University of Arkansas (with 1 of those staff spending one day/week launching at a school 1 hour away; and another staff spending some time at a local Christian college to try to mobilize students to go to the world).
So the (unintentional!) pattern over the last five years has been:
  • two years of plenty resulting in sending
  • a low year
  • two years of plenty resulting in sending
  • a low year
On the CFM side, going from 13 to 3 has been a little painful. 3 is a little small – I think 7 might be healthier (I don’t think much is gained in a staff team growing from 7 to 13, besides a temporary bump that can be dispersed to contextualized teams). But I think 3 has created space – a leadership vacuum that is sucking in new leaders. We don’t have any women staff. It’s looking like the result will be that next year we will gain several female interns.
So sending out leaders has created space for more leaders.
But here is one major caveat – one reason we can lead a good-size CFM movement with only three staff is that we have developed an established core of student leaders. We have 65 students leading Bible studies. For us, a solid hub movement has been the key to spinning out laborers to launch new movements. Bridges has successfully launched this year and has been very effective in reaching international students because we sent out 2 staff and 4 of our best student leaders from our core Cru movement. Our core Cru movement has suffered a bit from that loss of key leaders, but others hopefully will step up to fill that gap.
For many years Jim Sautner led Destino (focused on reaching Hispanic students). Jim has built movements and launched many kinds of contextualized movements. His advice to me:
“You need critical mass to produce laborers and launch new movements. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t give laborers to reach and launch if you don’t have any.”
We must build movements that plants new movements.

In 2016 I only read books that were highly recommended by friends. I already shared my top 20 books of 2016 – and I hesitated to share the rest that I read, but there are SO many good books that are worth reading (all of which were recommended by others)! AND I think it’s always helpful to hear which books are probably not worth reading. So…

  • 21-30 – I’d highly recommend all these books – thoroughly enjoyed them.
  • 31-40 – were good but not remarkable
  • 41-51 – I could have done without reading

21. Team of Rivals – well written biography of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Almost brought me to tears when he was (spoiler alert!) killed. How different would our nation be if he could have guided us through reconstruction following the Civil War?

22. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – started slow but ended up really enjoying this HP sequel (full disclosure – Harry Potter is my all time favorite novel/series)

23. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey – reads like a novel. Fascinating story.

24. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – a secular book but great insights for ministry – how do people change

25. The Insanity of God – great stories about the persecuted church. Felt like the writing was sometimes subpar. (embarrassingly-bad sentences like “our taxi was speeding faster than the underground church in China was growing”) Might have been – I really didn’t like the narrator that read the audiobook.

26. The Boys in the Boat – Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics – My favorite type of non-fiction – historical biography that reads like a novel. Not just about rowing! Great window into the lives of Americans during the Great Depression and into Germany as the Nazis rose to power.

27. Shadow of the Almighty [only this low because I’ve already read it many times!] – one of my all-time favorite books.

28. Between the World and Me – “written as a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States. Coates recapitulates the American history of violence against black people and the incommensurate policing of black youth.” Eye opening, much like Hillbilly Elegy, a window into a different world. Would highly recommend reading – to hear (and try to understand) the anger and sadness of a black man in inner city America.

29. Guns, Germs, and Steel – why are some countries rich and some poor? Fascinating if a bit technical and unsatisfying in its answers. The author is far more educated/smart than I’ll ever be but seems a bit reductionistic/deterministic. He essentially says (in very technical terms) that a nations’ fate is determined by its climate and ecological cards its been dealt (how many domesticable animals, what kind of crops will grow, etc). Leaves no room for the role of ideas and beliefs. Reading “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations” right now and finding it far more insightful- looking at why Europeans had a particular joy of discovery/invention. Interestingly, Wealth/Poverty of Nations attributes it mostly to Judeo-Christian beliefs, personal property rights, and a free market.

30. The Fifth Wave – young adult fiction – great plot (part of my quest to keep up with what my daughters are reading!)

31. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – would have enjoyed it more if it were shorter and less detailed! Dumbstruck this book was so popular, especially among secular people. It’s not an easy read. And it’s very theological. By far the best part was the light it shed on how the world’s most Christian country (home of the most influential seminaries, Luther, etc) became Nazi Germany. Unnerving to read it as Trump rose to power (and as the author, Metaxas, vocally supporter Trump!).

32. Being White – Finding Our Place in a Multiethnic World – less helpful than other books I’ve read on racial reconciliation in America. Still worth reading just to hear different viewpoints and continue to process Being White.

33. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century – Alan Hirsch – Addison’s Movements that Change the World is a shorter, more compelling version of this book (and was one of my top 10 books this year).

34. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Keller – not a bad little book. I read it to prep for a sermon. Like everything Keller writes, insightful and worth reading!

35. Beating the College Debt Trap: Getting a Degree Without Going Broke – Alex Chediak – very helpful in understanding solutions for what I think is a critical issue in mobilizing missionaries to go to the world – crippling student loan debt. Very detailed and practical. I read it to prep for a talk to help college students think critically re incurring debt.

36. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ – Piper – helpful as a short devotional to accompany morning Bible reading.

37. Mastery – examines the lives of great historical figures—such as Charles Darwin, Mozart, and Henry Ford—and distills the traits and universal ingredients that made them masters. Not as interesting/helpful as I had hoped!

38. The Last Star – young adult fiction (book 3 of The Fifth Wave)

39. Infinite Sea– young adult fiction (book 2 of The Fifth Wave)

40. A Little History of Philosophy – Very well written. Maybe not the best to listen to on audiobook – hard to take in on all those deep thoughts, audibly. Enjoyed it up until the 1800’s and then philosophy just gets bizarre. Kudos to those of you who can understand it. I sure Kant (see what I did there?).

41. The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World -book’s subtitle is somewhat misleading, in that the Royal Society plays only a small part. Somewhat anti-Christian. Though it is helpful in understanding the sad irony that Newton (who was a DEEPLY devoted follower of Jesus) ushered in modern atheism.

42. Devil in the White City – great writing, as always, from this author. Just didn’t love the story. Pretty dark.

43. Bossypants by Tina Fey – funny. But not amazing.

44. Maze Runner– young adult fiction – good, but not great.

45. Cinder– young adult fiction

46. Scarlet– young adult fiction

47. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power – pretty dry and long. Not sure I understand/know Jefferson any better. I slogged through though.

48. Cress – young adult fiction

49. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English – quite boring- not for laymen; only for serious linguists

50. When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12 

51. In the Land of the Blue Burqas – a missionary sharing the love of Christ with women living in Afghanistan – in desperate need of editing!


Last but certainly, not least –

Unranked – The Bible – I mean, of course, it’s #1 every year! 5 stars. Highly recommended reading.


I’m always adding to my Evernote “Books I want to read” list. What should I add to that list?

What books did you enjoy reading in 2016?