[warning: if you haven’t seen Frozen 2 yet, there are minor spoilers ahead]

As I watched Frozen 2 at the theater with my kids this week, it struck me that the movie is 100% about GenZ decision making.

Frozen 1 was a frozen winter. Frozen 2 is about autumnal change- the changing, swirling leaves are a key metaphor throughout.

This review is spot on:

Frozen 2 explores what it means to grow up & take responsibility. It’s essentially ‘Adulting Is Hard: The Movie’

Each of the main characters are trying to find their way, wrestling with, in Olaf’s words: “the ever-increasing complexity of thought that comes with maturity.”

Elsa sings about stepping boldly “Into the Unknown.”

Holding a leaf, Olaf contemplates mortality and change, and with perfect faux-certainty asserts “This will all make sense when I’m older.”

Growing up means adapting

Puzzling at your world and your place

When I’m more mature I’ll feel totally secure

See, that will all make sense when I am older

So there’s no need to be terrified or tense

I’ll just dream about a time

When I’m in my age of prime

‘Cause when you’re older

Absolutely everything makes sense

This is fine.

Olaf is Sancho Panza – the wise fool.

Ivana Righter nails it in her article: In ‘Frozen 2’, Olaf Is Having An Existential Crisis.

“Olaf is grappling with the fact that he is growing up and he feels he has so much more to learn about the world around him. He’s getting spun around hectically…from one existential question to the next: What happens when we die? What is our purpose? How do we know when we are grown?”

Kristoff and his reindeer ensemble belt out the wonderful 80’s hair ballad song ‘Lost in the Woods’.

And Anna goes full-emo singing: 

“I can’t find my direction, 

I’m all alone

You are lost, 

hope is gone

Hello, darkness 

I’m ready to succumb”

Each character is lost and seeking to find the way.

What decision making advice does Frozen 2 offer?
It’s a mixed bag:

  • Of course, the main idea is: look inside yourself and be true to yourself.
  • But there’s glimmers of wisdom:
    • The solid foundation of agape love and lasting relationships- 
      • In a changing world, Olaf asks Anna: “do you ever worry about the notion that nothing is permanent?”
      • Is there anything solid on which to build a life? Or is it all fleeting? Are we all a mist?
      • Olaf finds his own answer: love.
    • In a chaotic world beyond your control, take responsibility for what you CAN control (very Jordan Peterson-esque!):
      • In the midst of a crisis, Kristoff asks: “Are you okay, Olaf?”
      • Olaf responds: “Yah, we call this making the best out of what we can control!”
    • Similarly, Anna gives perhaps the best advice in “Do the next right thing”

So I’ll walk through this night

Stumbling blindly toward the light

And do the next right thing

And with the dawn, what comes then

When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again?

Then I’ll make the choice

To hear that voice

And do the next right thing?

But there is a glaring hole in Frozen 2’s decision making advice: What is this “light”? Which “voice” am I heeding? What is my telos (the end toward which I am stumbling)?

“Do the Next Right Thing” is great advice if you have a true North Star. But with nothing to aim for, it is a crushing weight. 

Having to figure out life on their own, with no help- that’s a major reason young people are so anxious. Os Guinness calls it “the terrible freedom to be whatever we want to be.” 

Guinness continues:

“Have you determined your purpose is something you must figure out yourself & accomplish all on your own? …all it takes is courage and willpower [to] ‘follow your dreams’ [and] ‘if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything.’
Humanness is a response to God’s calling. This is far deeper than the exhortation to write your own script for life. Responding to the call requires courage, but we are not purely on our own. The challenge is not solely up to us. Unsure of ourselves, we are sure of God.” – The Call

Now THAT is good decision making advice.

My Top Books of 2018

January 26, 2019 — 2 Comments

I’m a book pusher. If I’m around you for more than 5 minutes, I will probably recommend a book to you. I can’t help it. I really think reading might be the antidote to much of what ails us as a society.

In our distracted age, book readers almost possess superhuman ability- the ability to think deeply.

The classic dystopian book Fahrenheit 451 ends with a tiny glimmer of hope: a small band of apocalypse survivors, huddled around a fire quoting memorized books (including Bible passages!). They are the hope of the world.

“Reading forms us. Just as water, over a long period of time, reshapes the land through which it runs, so too we are formed by the habit of reading good books well.”

Karen Prior – On Reading Well

Overall, here’s my Top 5 books I read in 2018:

  1. 12 Rules for Life – Jordan B. Peterson
  2. The Next Evangelicalism – Soong-Chan Rah
  3. Disruptive Witness – Alan Noble
  4. Letters to the Church – Francis Chan
  5. Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds – Jen Wilkin

I’m constantly on the lookout for book recommendations from friends who read a lot. I get to benefit as they filter out the best of the best for me to read. So in the spirit of “do unto others” I typed up my favorite books I read this past year. I read 100 books in 2018 and these were the very best.

I thought it would be helpful to rank them by genre (so if you’re looking for a good fiction book, you can skip down to Fiction).

So here they are, ranked in order of amazing-ness.

Christian Devotional Books

  1. Letters to the Church – Francis Chan
    • As you would expect, Francis Chan does not hold back in this scathing critique of American churches. If you want your view of the sacredness of the church elevated & challenged, read.
    • “As I examine the state of the Church I can’t help but think that God is displeased w many of the churches in America”
    • “Is there ever a point when a church is no longer a church? Just because you walk into a building with the word ‘Church’ painted on a sign doesn’t mean God see it as an actual church”
    • “By catering our worship to the worshippers and not to the Object of our worship, I fear we have created human-centered churches.”
  2. Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds – Jen Wilkin
    • Clear, concise and visionary. Nevermind the title – wonderful book for both men and women. Wilkin makes a strong case for the need for Biblical literacy: to raise up students who know how to study God’s Word for themselves.
    • “We must learn to study in such a way that we are not just absorbing the insights of another, but are actually being equipped to interpret and apply Scripture on our own.” Jen Wilkin will teach you how to do just that.
  3. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life – Os Guinness
    • You get more than you bargained for with this book. I picked up Guinness’s book on a whim- to read more on decision making/career. And ended up getting a lesson on the fall of Western Civilization and how calling is the answer. Os is brimming with wisdom. Though written before Dreher’s Benedict Option, I found it to be a helpful counterpoint. I agree w Dreher re prescription but Guinness is closer to the cure. (click to read my full Goodreads review)
  4. Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics – John Murray
    • JI Packer calls him one of “the best Reformed theologians of our time” and Principles of Conduct “Murray’s masterpiece” in which Murray ties together the law of God and the grace of God.
  5. Religious Affections – Jonathan Edwards
    • Most difficult book I read all year. Edwards is notoriously long-winded and punctuation averse. But taken in small doses, every morning as part of your Quiet Time, totally worth the effort.
    • Edwards makes some very challenging claims (essentially: You’re not saved if you are not passionate. You’re not saved if you’re not growing in the fruits of the spirit). But they are hard to argue with because of the flood of Bible verses Edwards uses as proofs.
    • He’s not merely stating his opinion. He’s attempting to make sense of the torrent of Scripture that cuts against modern easy-belief-ism. He’s saying: let’s look at Scripture and try to make sense of this flood of difficult teachings. Lets emphasize the things that Scripture emphasizes. “To insist very little on those things on which the Scripture insists much, is a dangerous thing.”
  6. Commentary on Galatians – Martin Luther
    • I’ve heard it said that this is the greatest commentary ever written. It’s surprisingly readable. Especially great paired with Keller’s Galatians commentary.
  7. Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just – Tim Keller
  8. Galatians for You – Timothy J. Keller

Understanding the Times 

(my favorite category of 2018!)

  1. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – Jordan B. Peterson
    • Most thought provoking book I’ve read in a long time. This one book set the course for my reading for 2018.
    • In 12 Rules, Peterson is essentially asking -“How can one live the good life?” Jordan Peterson gets so much right. SO much. In his words:
      • We all fall short of the glory of God
      • We have missed the mark because of original sin
      • And the goal is to get back to walking with God
    • What do we do with our falling short? Dr. Peterson’s answer is “grow the hell up.” He is unable to see grace.
    • The foreword by Dr. Norman Doidge ends on this intriguing note: “Perhaps, as unfamiliar and strange as it sounds, in the deepest part of our psyche, we all want to be judged.”
    • read my full GoodReads review here
  2. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business – Neil Postman
    • Written in 1985, Amusing could not be more relevant to 2018 and humankind’s endless appetite for distraction. I read two more Postman books in 2018 after reading Amusing because I was so taken by his ability to make sense of vast amounts of history- to explain how (and why) we got to now, especially as it relates to technology. I wish he were alive to explicate our modern iPhone epidemic.
    • Postman explains so much of our world- how technology affects our ability to think, and the resulting effects: anxiety and outrage (instead of reasoned discourse).
    • Postman puts into words what many of us feel – the glut of information causes anxiety, incoherence, and impotence. In the place of meaning, technology gives us amusement. 
    • read my full GoodReads review here
  3. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah
    • My favorite audiobook of all time. Noah is phenomenally gifted with accents. Not too many books out there like this that could be marketed with “have fun while you learn about systemic racism!” [language warning!]
  4. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical – Tim Keller
    • This summer I watched in amazement Tim Keller’s speech at the British Parliament on what Christianity offers British society. Well worth 25 minutes of your time- Tim Keller winsomely explains how western civilization and human rights are 100% based on Christianity and the Bible.
    • I texted a friend – “If he could turn that 25 minute talk into a book…THAT would be the book we need.”
    • I had already purchased Making Sense of God by Tim Keller but it was just collecting digital dust in my Kindle library.
    • In mid-fall, on a whim, I finally started to read it.
    • I immediately texted my friend: “I just started it, but I think Keller’s Making Sense of God might be the book I’m looking for.”
    • Making Sense of God explains the chaos of 2018.
  5. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains – Nicholas Carr
    • “We program our computers and thereafter they program us.”
    • This book is packed with wisdom and insight. It’s worth the price of the book for Carr’s insights on how we learn: how our brains retain information and are reprogrammed, comparing it to filling a bathtub with a thimble.
    • “When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can transfer, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory & forge the rich associations essential to the creation of schemas [complex, “thick” understanding].
    • Technology’s “frequent interruptions”, on the other hand, “scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious”. 
  6. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure – Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
    • As a parent of three teens and a college minister, this book made sense of what I’d seen but couldn’t put my finger on.
    • Seeking to answer: why are today’s college students so fragile, the authors discover that much of the blame lies with over-protective parents.
  7. iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us – Jean M. Twenge
    • Researcher and professor Dr. Jean Twenge has done extensive research on this generation of college students and found that there is just one activity that is significantly correlated with anxiety, loneliness, and depression: Screen Time (and girls are more affected by this than boys).
    • This book seems to be THE go-to book on GenZ that other books reference).
    • “There is a simple, free way to improve mental health: put down the phone, and do something else.”
  8. On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books – Karen Swallow Prior
    • On Reading Well is a slow read. Very dense and literary- making me exercise different mental muscles. But Dr. Prior is incredibly wise. The introduction (on the power of reading) is worth the price of the book.
  9. The Disappearance of Childhood – Neil Postman
    • “The printing press created childhood” and technology is now “disappearing” it.
    • I’m a sucker for “how we got to now” books and Postman is the best- incredible historical overview of the origins of childhood, education, and literacy. Postman says we “must conceive of parenting as an act of rebellion against culture.” How to resist? Stay married. Limit kid’s technology exposure.
  10. How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture – Francis A. Schaeffer
  11. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology – Neil Postman
  12. The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia – Masha Gessen
    • Fascinating book. But as one reviewer commented “its fundamental problem is that it seems to go on almost endlessly like Russia itself!” If it were 200 pages shorter I’d be recommending it to everyone. The last 1/3 of the book was a slog, strangely veering into a detailed history of LGBTQ rights in Russia (or lack thereof). Read the first 2/3 of the book – incredible insights into why the Russian people crave strong leaders.


  1. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity – Soong-Chan Rah
    • Dr. Rah makes a compelling case that the future of Christianity in America rests on the shoulders of immigrants and ethnic minority leaders.
    • A few key takeaways:
      • “Contrary to popular opinion, the church is not dying in America; it is alive and well, but it is alive & well among the immigrant & ethnic minority communities”
      • Multiracial Americans will lead the 21st century American church
      • The flood of immigrants in the past few decades has been a God-ordained action to save the American church (click to read my full goodreads review)
  2. Disruptive Witness – Alan Noble
    • This fall, Tim Keller tweeted re Disruptive Witness: “Best book I’ve read recently. No, I did not get paid, nor was I contacted to say that. I mean it.”
    • It’s that good. This book is a must read for anyone doing ministry in America, especially for those working with young people.
    • Alan Noble is the first I’ve seen to address both phones and secularism.
    • “distraction & secularism…perpetuate each other: we long for distraction in part because we are terrified of living in a meaningless world, & we struggle to discover a satisfying sense of fullness in the world because we’re constantly distracted” (full GoodReads review)
  3. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear
    • We are what we repeatedly do. Atomics habits gives very practical ways to make small changes that will yield big results.
    • “If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, [just] follow the curve of tiny gains/losses…how your daily choices will compound 10 years down the line. Are you spending less than you earn each month? Are you reading books & learning something new each day?”
  4. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win – Jocko Willink
    • Best book on leadership I’ve read in a long time. Makes for a great audiobook (because Jocko sounds just like you think a Navy Seal named Jocko would sound like).
  5. Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry – Kathy Keller
  6. Giving up Control: Why movements are preferable to revivals – A.J. DeJonge
  7. White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White – Daniel Hill
  8. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America – Michael O. Emerson
  9. The Minority Experience: Navigating Emotional and Organizational Realities – Adrian Pei


  1. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
    • Profound book that chronicles Frankl’s time in a concentration camp and his attempt to unravel what caused some people to survive and others to give up hope. He finds: man has to have meaning and purpose.
    • “The meaning of life is to be found outside of man. Man is not a closed system”
    • “The key to overcoming anxiety…is to lose one’s self in a mission outside of oneself”
  2. The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom
    • Truly unbelievable courage and faith. Incredibly inspiring.
  3. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History – S.C. Gwynne
    • Fascinating and sad story of the Old West (I found it more balanced than “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. Especially interesting for those who have lived in Dallas or West Texas as much of the book takes place in North Texas.
  4. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation – Joseph J. Ellis
    • This Pulitzer Prize winning book is one of my favorite historical nonfiction books of all time. My favorite type of book – where the author puts in the work to comb through vast amounts of research to present a short, insightful summary.
    • I hadn’t read it in years, and thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it. (my full GoodReads review)
  5. I Am a Man/Survival in Auschwitz – Primo Levi
  6. The Guns of August – Barbara W. Tuchman
    • Pulitzer-prize winning book that many would say is the greatest WWI book written.
  7. Night- Elie Wiesel
    • a haunting, sometimes poetic survivor’s account of the Holocaust)
  8. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order – Samuel P. Huntington
    • This is a top book that “Ivy League students are reading that you aren’t”. Written in the 90’s, Huntington brilliantly predicts the the rise of China and the colliding world views that led to 9/11. Fascinating though WAY longer than it needed to be.
  9. Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin – Hampton Sides
  10. Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival – Peter Stark


  1. Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
    • Aside from the Harry Potter series, maybe my all-time favorite fiction book
  2. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  3. Animal Farm – George Orwell
    • Funny and incredibly insightful. Though written before Mao’s rise in China, this book reads like a history of Communist China.
  4. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  5. Gilead (Gilead, #1) – Marilynne Robinson
  6. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
    • A tough read. But man, does it stick with you. I think of this book often.
    • Shelley wrote this book when she was TWENTY-ONE! At 21 she was far more literate and erudite than I will ever be.
  7. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
    • A familiar story but incredibly insightful re human nature. It’s a vivid depiction of Romans 7-8. What if we could simply split off our sinful nature (into a separate person) and just keep the “good” part of us?
  8. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
    • This book proves the potency of novels. Thomas is not saying anything new but it’s hitting a far broader audience that may not take the time to read Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ralph Ellison, Isabel Wilkerson, or Bryan Stevenson.
  9. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

Would love to hear from you – what were your favorite books you read in 2018?

Good Clean Fun 2018

August 14, 2018 — 2 Comments

What’s the first thing students encounter when they come to your event? The music that you’re playing. The problem – finding good music that’s not explicit.

So here’s a Good Clean Fun Spotify playlist.

Full of upbeat, fun songs that are clean and that appeal to an ethnically diverse college student audience.

It’s a mix of Christian rap, dance, popular music, indie rock, and a handful of songs in Spanish. I double checked lyrics for all of them (even the Spanish songs!) and there’s no sexual stuff, cussing (there are some songs labeled explicit, but I assure you they are clean; sometimes whole albums are labeled explicit while individual songs are fine), no taking the Lord’s name in vain (i.e. – “oh my g__d”; I’m looking at you Taylor Swift – Shake it Off), etc.

We use this playlist at our Cru (Fort Worth) Winter Conference, Cookouts, and Weekly Meetings.

Play them in order, just hit shuffle, or drag songs over to new playlists you are making.

Within Spotify, click “Follow” to add it to your sidebar of playlists.

Would love to hear if you have upbeat, clean songs that you like that didn’t make the list!

When it comes to the fall in college ministry, as Paul Worcester has said – It’s All About the Contacts!

Because of that, a lot of thought and time has gone into crafting a perfect spiritual interest survey: how to throw the net broadly but not so broadly so as to become useless.

We aim to survey about 3,000 students in the first two days of school.

The problem we run into, with our team of 4 staff and several dozen student leaders= we can’t get to all 3,000 contacts immediately.

A good survey can go a long way to helping you filter through thousands of contacts and find the students who are most spiritually interested.

For our campus – we are aiming to follow up with spiritually interested non-Christians. On a campus in the buckle of the Bible belt, that can be a bit of a challenge.

Here’s our card (here’s the photoshop-editable pdf file so you can edit it and make it your own; after you download it, right click and select “open with Photoshop”):

We will text all students who indicated interest (a ‘maybe’ or ‘yes’ on their card).

But we want to get face to face with all 3-‘maybes’. Why? Because those are typically spiritually interested non-Christians. We took off “Maybe” for years. But recently put it back on to try to hit that spiritually-indecisive-but-curious student.

A couple years ago we ditched “email” and “dorm address” – both came across creepy. And we never email anyway.


At Cleveland Cru, Brian Metzer and his team recently changed their survey:

We simplified our survey a lot. We wanted to be less “survey-y,” more “we’d like to get to know you,” more positive filtering, less transactional, and tell us less so we went in with fewer preconceived ideas on the first appt.

Did you see an increase in the number of follow up appts?

About the same, and maybe even a little less. But qualitatively better. The non-believers we met with were more open. It felt less like we were tricking people into an appt. and we could genuinely get to know them. This also meant that we felt more likelihood of connecting again so less pressure to push ahead through the gospel on the first (and only) appt.

I think our goal shifted too. In our metro context [city-wide; focused on multiple campuses] we needed to surface not just people to meet with but hungry people to meet with. This has helped.

Cleveland Cru’s Survey:

At Michigan Cru, they’ve made some contextualized adaptations to their survey:

This is our card for Fraternity Pledge talks:

Katie Smith (Cru Team Leader in Eastern Iowa) on one change they’re making this year:

We are adding a place for their Snapchat username (student leaders said students are more quick to give that out & to respond that way for follow up – it’ll be the first time trying it, so we’ll see how it works!)

On a similar topic- on the Collegiate Collective discussion on Facebook (highly recommend joining that group, btw), someone asked what methods of communication students prefer. In these college ministers’s (very reputable) opinions:

  • not email
  • text is still king for reaching new people
  • snapchat and instagram for ministry-wide communication
  • groupme for internal communication with leaders

We have found all of that to be true on our campus.

The main idea from all these surveys:

  • Tailor your survey for the
    • audience you are trying to reach. Is it predominantly secular? Bible belt?
    • how many people you want to meet with. Do you want a really tight filter because you don’t have the capacity to follow up that many people (you just want to meet face to face with the “fish ready to jump in the boat”?) Or do you want a really broad filter that will leave the door open for you to contact as many people as possible?

Would love to see what surveys your team uses – link to them in the comments!

It’s Harvest Time

August 9, 2018 — Leave a comment

As we head into the most critical weeks in college ministry – the first few weeks of the fall – this is great to read and discuss with your team.

We all have a vague awareness that Harvest Time is a critical period in farming. But what exactly does it entail?

Here are two snapshots of the importance and urgency of harvest season in modern farming communities:

Day in the Life of Harvest, Perspective of a Farm Wife

We can’t harvest when it’s still dewy and moist outside, because wet crops clog the equipment, so our day usually begins around 8 or 8:30 in the morning.

We take that time to fuel up the trucks and harvest equipment, making sure everything is in the right place. Once we start each day, we work as long as we can.

Most days, that means people are in combines and trucks until as late as midnight. We keep a healthy stock of energy drinks on hand to help keep our team motivated and alert.

During harvest, we have come to expect the unexpected. We are running combines with thousands of moving parts. Breakdowns and replacements are expected. And even though we expect them to happen, they can sometimes be a big deal.

Harvest is a special time of year for us. It’s our main project where we get to see all the work we did up to that point. We also get our one paycheck, so it’s a really big deal.

What parallels do you see to college ministry?


It seems like farmers are in a race to get harvest finished. You might hear about farmers working from dawn until well after sunset – sometimes working 18 hour days or longer – to get their crops harvested. Why does harvest happen so fast?


Everything sort of shuts down in rural America during harvest season. [There’s still counties in America that call off school for the weeks of harvest – in one county in Maine, schools are closed Sept. 21 until Oct. 10.]

But what’s the big rush? THE CROPS ARE READY

Farmers wait until their crops reach a certain stage of dryness to harvest them. This means that moisture content inside the corn kernel or soybean (or any other crop like wheat, canola, or sunflowers) has to be just right – low enough, but not too low. Farmers are watching and waiting for these plants to be dry enough before they harvest them.


If soybean plants get too dry, there can be big problems. The bean pods can open and the soybeans will fall out onto the ground. Have you ever tried to pick popcorn kernels out of your carpet? That’s what it’s like when soybeans fall onto the ground… except the soybeans are well-camouflaged against the dirt. Which means that they are lost. If the pods do stay closed, the beans can get so dry that they shatter into tiny pieces when they are harvested. Those pieces are lost, as well.


Farmers have a very small window when they can harvest their crops. When the plants say they are ready and the weather is cooperating, it’s time to go, no matter what else is going on.

Again- What similarities do you see to the first weeks of the fall in college ministry?

Paul Worcester sums it up well in his 2014 article on CampusMinistryToday.org:

Every year countless new students flood onto college campuses. Proverbs 10:5 says,“A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during the harvest is a disgrace.” College ministry has very clear seasons; the beginning of each semester is harvest time. It’s not time to work on your support raising. It’s not time to catch up on your reading. Eternity is hanging in the balance. It’s not time to find a balance in your schedule. There’s a field of new students waiting to be harvested. Will you harvest them? Or will you sleep through it?

For decades, Cru’s mission has been “Turning lost students into Christ centered laborers.”

Our mantra has been “Win/Build/Send”. The reason I have remained on campus for 20 years is because I want to send laborers to the harvest.

But over the last few years I have been convicted that on our campus, our Cru movement could more accurately be described as “Gather/Build/Keep”

Our campus is solidly in the Bible Belt. It’s easy to find kids who grew up in solid churches. We can have a good size movement ministry by “Gather/Build/Keep”.


But that is not why I am on the college campus. I am on campus to send laborers.


And here’s the issue:
“People reproduce what they have experienced.” Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch – The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church
Students who are pursued and brought to Christ with much persistence, will turn into laborers who pursue with much persistence. Students who get involved because they were looking just to “plug in” somewhere will find it difficult to be persistent pursuers.


In other words, many of the most effective Christ-centered laborers start out as really lost freshmen.


Steve Shadrach remarked to me that he’s found THE one common element of radical world-changing college movements:
the movement is made up of students who were led to Christ in college. 


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Cru on my campus – the University of Arkansas. In those five decades God has worked in some incredible ways. There have been seasons of true revival and thousands of laborers have been sent out. No exaggeration – hundreds of churches have been planted as a result of Arkansas Cru alumni. How did those revivals happen?
In the late 60’s and early 70’s when Cru began at the U of A, revival swept the campus.
In 1968, 2 Cru staff, Don and Sally Meredith, launched the ministry. Sally recounts: “It was in the turbulent sixties and the days of ‘God is dead’ philosophy. He proved soooooo alive.” That year they saw 4 students get involved and go with them on a summer mission with Cru.


One year later, they brought 200 students with them to the summer mission – the vast majority of those 200 had just trusted Christ.
Yesterday I spoke to a lady who was involved with Cru at Arkansas in the early 70’s – her comment: “It was really amazing – none of us came from Christian homes. Everyone involved with Campus Crusade became Christians in college.”


In the early 80’s, revival swept the Arkansas campus again.
This time through University Baptist Church (and what was to become StuMo). I encourage you to read Steve Shadrach’s recounting of that incredible movement of the Spirit. The common thread? They aggressively shared the gospel on campus and the movement was almost completely made up of new converts.
Do you want revival like that on your campus? I believe it begins with aggressively pursuing the lost.

Mark Brown, who was the long time Cru director at Miami (OH), once told me:

“It’s a longer process to turn a self-righteous, youth group all-star into a Christ-centered laborer than it is to turn a totally lost student into a Christ centered laborer.”
So do we not want already-strong Christians involved? Of course we want them involved. But we quickly want to engage them in the mission to show them that they are not involved in a Christian social club but a missional force that is engaged in the great adventure of proclaiming Christ to the nations.


What you win them with is what they will win others with. If you’re preaching (by words OR by deeds) “come get involved with us – you will really get poured into and have sweet praise and worship” then you will attract spiritual leeches. If you’re preaching (by words and deeds) “let’s boldly proclaim the gospel to lost students” then you are going to be a movement of world changers.


The primary way you preach “come help change the world” is to make your primary activity seeking the lost. Now, I’ve found that even the best of already-solid Christians usually require patient, persistent vision to catch the vision of seeking and saving the lost. It’s worth sticking with them and casting vision to them and continuing to push them to be a bold pursuer. I was one of those “already-solid” incoming freshmen. And I eventually turned into a laborer with a heart for the lost. But I spent many years in college actively trying to avoid sharing my faith! I mostly wanted to gather believers into my Bible study.


I have a friend who has labored in Western Europe for over a decade and he shared with me the issue he sees with much of our sending:
We have seen well over 250 students come through our country [on STINT and Summer Missions] but after all these resources, I could hardly get anyone to stay and work longterm. We would get students from these highly successful ministries that can’t cope with ministry…where you have to share your faith all the time.
Here in Europe it is purely a WIN-BUILD-SEND ministry. In America they were successful because you could find-build-send.
For example, we have had multiple students come here and tell me they want to run my weekly meeting. Others who say I want to have a worship ministry. Some say, “my goal is pour my life into 5 men who can multiply themselves”. Our city has 100,000 students and maybe 20 known Christ followers!! Not going to happen.


Effective Sending starts with Winning. The most effective Christ-centered laborers will likely start out as really lost freshmen.


So the question is: How would our staff and student leaders spend our time if we really believed that Sending starts with Winning?


As we as Christians think about where to invest our time and resources, I think these maps are really helpful:

Faithland from VividMaps

NYTimes’s Ross Douthat’s reaction (and Rod Dreher’s response) to that map:

As you might guess, I am with Douthat on this one. Granted, I haven’t read Dreher’s book. But it just doesn’t seem like the early church waited around for the tides of history to turn more favorable.

This second map from VividMaps is less, well, vivid but more helpful as it is just evangelicals (the above map has any religion – Muslim, Mormon, etc.)

I have written before (in 2015) about my organization, Cru, and our allocation of staff vs the need.

As far as solutions to this need, I still agree with my 2015 self –

  • I’m a big fan of empowering leaders by showing them a problem or a need and asking them to be a part of the solution.
  • I would love to see a grassroots movement of college ministries sending to where there is a need. A local-level driven movement where teams sacrificially send to the world and to more needy areas of the country. A mentality of “send first” and trusting God that He’ll provide the staff we need to reach our own campus


But I think there may be another component of the solution that my 2015 self couldn’t see: Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, in his book The Next Evangelicalism, makes a compelling case that the future of Christianity in America rests on the shoulders of immigrants and ethnic minority leaders:

White churches [in America] are in decline while the immigrant, ethnic and multiethnic churches are flourishing. Very few have recognized that American Christianity may actually be growing, but in unexpected and surprising ways. Contrary to popular opinion, the church is not dying in America; it is alive and well, but it is alive and well among the immigrant and ethnic minority communities and not among the majority white churches in the United States.

Unless [churches/parachurches] see growth among the ethnic minority population within their [congregation] they will experience steady decline.

Even while we consider the needs of the U.S., we HAVE to keep the bigger picture in mind. God is not America First.


The needs of the world dwarf the needs of the U.S. Virtually the whole world is < 5% evangelical (which is < than any part of America).(click to see a larger pdf)

from the IMB

And what of the new reality that the Global South (Africa/S America/Asia) is the New Face of Christianity?

In the year 1900, Europe and North America comprised 82 percent of the world’s Christian population. In 2005, Europe and North America comprised 39 percent of the world’s Christian population with African, Asian and Latin American Christians making up 60 percent of the world’s Christian population. By 2050, African, Asian and Latin American Christians will constitute 71 percent of the world’s Christian population.

The Next Evangelicalism – Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

As we think about where to invest our time and resources, a good bet is on the growth markets:

What do these maps tell you?


If you’ve ever tried to make a playlist for a College Ministry meeting, you’ve found that it’s not easy to find fun songs that are clean and that appeal to an ethnically (and spiritually) diverse college student audience.

Notice any pattern in the Top 50 songs?

According to Newsweek’s article How Songs with Explicit Lyrics Came to Dominate the Charts, more than 2/3 of the Top 100 songs in 2017 featured explicit lyrics (interestingly, Spotify is to blame – previously songs were made for radio broadcast and had to be somewhat appropriate). Even among the “non-explicit” songs, it is reported that 92% of the Top 100 songs were sexual in nature.

As I’ve said before: while cool, upbeat music may be #27 on the list of important things about a Christian meeting, it’s important nonetheless.

What’s the first thing students encounter when they come to your meeting? The music that you’re playing before the meeting.


So here’s a playlist I call Good Clean Fun.

Within Spotify, click “Follow” to add it to your sidebar of playlists.

Full of upbeat, fun songs that are clean and that appeal to an ethnically diverse college student audience – it’s a mix of Christian rap, dance, popular music, indie rock, and a handful of songs in Spanish. I looked up lyrics for all of them (even the Spanish songs!) and there’s no sexual stuff, cussing, no taking the Lord’s name in vain (i.e. – “oh my g__d”; I’m looking at you Taylor Swift – Shake it Off), etc.

We use this playlist at our Cru (Fort Worth) Winter Conference, Cookouts, and Weekly Meetings.

Play them in order, just hit shuffle, or drag songs over to new playlists you are making.

Would love to hear if you have upbeat, clean songs that you like that didn’t make the list!

Top Songs of 2017

January 14, 2018 — 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 the 2010’s (click “Follow” at the top of Spotify if you want to add any of the playlists to your sidebar of playlists)


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.


My 3 Top Albums of 2017:

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins (click to play on Spotify) – beautiful, complex music. So many good songs on this album. Mandy and I had the opportunity to see them in concert this fall which was amazing.

The National – Sleep Well Beast – another great album from probably my favorite band of all time. Brooding and quiet, but moving. The lead singer co-wrote many of the songs with his wife which adds vulnerability as they wrestle with their marriage.


Hamilton – Original Broadway Cast Recording (OK, I know this didn’t come out in 2017, but my family fell in love with this 2 and a 1/2 hour “album” in 2017). Pretty much all we listened to all fall, culminating with a trip to Chicago to see the play this past December! This play is brilliant songwriting.



Here are my 100 favorite songs of 2017  (click to play the full list in Spotify): 

100 The Silence by Manchester Orchestra

99 Stroll On by Mutemath

98 Deflect the Light by Vessels, The Flaming Lips

97 Starlight (Goldroom Remix) by Jai Wolf, Goldroom

96 Goodbye Soleil by Phoenix

95 Cruel World by Active Child

94 Hold Me Down by Yoke Lore

93 Good Luck by The Undercover Dream Lovers

92 The Castle by The Flaming Lips

91 The Passenger by Hunter As a Horse

90 Silence by Marshmello, Khalid

89 Stars Last Me A Lifetime by Cut Copy

88 Oslo by Anna Of The North

87 This Song by RAC, Rostam

86 No Promises by San Fermin

85 Good Love by Zola Blood

84 Darling by Real Estate

83 Fleur de Lys by Phoenix

82 Only You by Yoke Lore

81 Ran by Future Islands

80 Anymore by Goldfrapp

79 Light Outside by Absofacto

78 Whiteout Conditions by The New Pornographers

77 Your Love by HAERTS

76 Cave by Future Islands

75 I Saw You Close Your Eyes by Local Natives

74 Only You by Selena Gomez

73 Change My Mind by JR JR

72 Into Waves by A Little Nothing

71 Work It on out by Haiva ru

70 Jupiter by James McAlister, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner

69 Signal by SOHN

68 Strange or Be Forgotten by Temples

67 Hot Thoughts by Spoon

66 Proof by SOHN

65 Utopia by Austra

64 Love by Lana Del Rey

63 Die Young by Sylvan Esso

62 No One’s Here To Sleep by Naughty Boy, Bastille

61 The Only Thing by Zola Blood

60 Right Words by Cults

59 The Only Heirs by Local Natives

58 Thunder by Imagine Dragons

57 Of The Night by Bastille

56 Black Out Days – Future Islands Remix by Phantogram, Future Islands

55 Punk Drunk & Trembling by Wild Beasts

54 The Driver by Bastille

53 Sum by Loney Dear

52 I’ll Still Destroy You by The National

51 oh baby by LCD Soundsystem

50 Believer by Imagine Dragons

49 Electric Blue by Arcade Fire

48 I Don’t Know Why by Imagine Dragons

47 Fallss by Bayonne

46 I Took Your Picture by Cults

45 Goodpain by Yoke Lore

44 Cut-Out by Grizzly Bear

43 Mercury by James McAlister, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner

42 Guilty Party by The National

41 Third of May / Ōdaigahara – Edit by Fleet Foxes

40 Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man

39 Nobody Else Will Be There by The National

38 Hard Liquor by SOHN

37 Spiral by Wye Oak

36 We a Famly by The Flaming Lips

35 Wasted Acres by Grizzly Bear

34 Venus by James McAlister, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner

33 Role Model by Phoenix

32 Four Cypresses by Grizzly Bear

31 Visions of Gideon by Sufjan Stevens

30 Now & Then by Sjowgren

29 On Our Way Home by Empire of the Sun

28 Everything Now by Arcade Fire

27 Aquarian by Grizzly Bear

26 Asido by Purity Ring

25 The Moth by Manchester Orchestra

24 Day I Die by The National

23 Easy Tiger by Portugal. The Man

22 Read My Mind by Geographer

21 Deadcrush by alt-J

20 Hit Parade by Mutemath

19 Saturn by James McAlister, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner

18 Wave Is Not the Water by Wye Oak

17 Mourning Sound by Grizzly Bear

16 Born to Beg by The National

15 Offering by Cults

14 Slip Away by Perfume Genius

13 Number One (feat. Richie Havens & Son Little) by Portugal. The Man, Richie Havens, Son Little

12 Tell Me Why by Nine Pound Shadow

11 The Gold by Manchester Orchestra

10 Abandon by Charles Fauna

9 The Alien by Manchester Orchestra

8 Neighbors by Grizzly Bear

7 Cassius, – by Fleet Foxes

6 The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National

5 Rennen by SOHN

4 Losing All Sense by Grizzly Bear

3 Empire Line by The National

2 Three Rings by Grizzly Bear

1 Beige by Yoke Lore

Would love to hear – What were your favorite songs from 2017??

My Top Books of 2017

January 2, 2018 — 5 Comments
Dr. Albert Mohler in his book The Conviction to Lead describes 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.”

I’m constantly on the lookout for book recommendations from friends who read a lot. I get to benefit as they filter out the best of the best for me to read. So in the spirit of “do unto others” I typed up my favorite books I read this past year.


I thought it would be helpful to rank my favorites in genres. Because how do you compare Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch with To Kill a Mockingbird or The Blood of Emmett Till? They were all deeply moving on completely different levels.


I split Christian Devotional and Ministry into two lists. The Ministry books were particularly helpful for my job as a college pastor. The Devo books changed my heart and moved me closer to Jesus. I also split non-fiction into Historical and Leadership/Modern non-fiction. The latter helped me be a better leader in that they are purely Leadership books or they better helped me understand our times we live in.


So here they are, ranked in order of amazing-ness.


Top 10 Christian Devotional Books

  1. The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation – John H. Sailhamer
    • This is the book of which John Piper said “Sell all of your Piper books & buy this.” I’d keep all your Piper books, but… I found Sailhamer’s book to be incredibly enlightening and truly groundbreaking (as in – I’ve been studying God’s Word and listening to Biblical preaching for 20 years and Sailhamer shares hundreds of things that I have never heard taught nor have seen for myself in Scripture). Not an easy read. Boring at times. But fascinating. What I wish: that someone would take this book and edit it to be readable by the masses. It’s unnecessarily repetitive and dense. Definitely written to seminarians. But those willing to plod through it will be rewarded with gold. He is thorough in his exegesis and I never found myself thinking – “well, that is a bit of a stretch.”
    • Everything you think about the Old Testament and the Pentateuch is wrong. It was “not written to teach Israel the law. The Pentateuch was addressed to a people living under the law and failing at every opportunity.” Read the free (50 page!) intro and have your mind blown! As a (seminary grad) friend commented – “Just reading the Introduction left me feeling like I had never read the Pentateuch before!” REALLY long and kind of difficult. But so worth it. Great to read during your quiet time over a couple of months.
  2. You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity – Francis Chan
    • As one reviewer put it “A bait and switch but in the best possible way.” Not really on marriage – but about living on mission as a couple and family.
    • “There are plenty of marriage books that will teach you how to get along and be happy. This is not one of those books. Those books don’t account for the fact that you can have a happy earthly marriage and then be miserable for all eternity. We’ve made happy families our mission. That’s not the mission Jesus gave us. God has entrusted you with children so you’d make them into disciples who will go into every part of the world & make disciples. Our parenting is not exempt from the command to make disciples. Your marriage exists to make disciples.”
  3. The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges
    • Haven’t read this in years. This book is so foundational to understanding Christian growth that I plan on re-reading it regularly.
  4. Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture – John Piper
    • Not a real easy read. But perfect to bite off a piece every morning in Quiet Times. Not difficult to understand, but just very detailed and methodical. I can think of few authors who are better than Piper at laying out a logical argument from Scripture.
  5. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God – Tim Keller
    • I’ve read over 20 books on marriage/dating/sex and this is by FAR the best (yes, better than the #2 book on my list. I’d recommend this book first as a marriage book. And then You and Me Forever as a follow up. You and Me was just more impactful for me personally this year). Cannot recommend highly enough. Incredibly practical and insightful. Especially helpful for singles to read pre-marriage and even pre-dating.
  6. The Holy Spirit- Sinclair Ferguson
    • Incredibly insightful on a topic(person!), I confess, I don’t understand very well.
  7. Mere Christianity – CS Lewis –
    • Ever feel < as a Christian (believing the world- ‘only foolish, uneducated people believe those old myths’)? Read Mere Christianity and be swept up in the beauty and intellectual viability of the Christian Truth. CS Lewis makes you proud to be a Christian. His arguments are compelling AND beautiful. Makes you WANT to believe them. Not just because they are logical and sound. But because in Christianity the world & life finally makes sense.
    • I hadn’t read Mere Christianity since college. I had put off reading it because I assumed it would be a difficult read. It is not at all. That is not to say that there weren’t some parts that were over my head. There are logical arguments that will probably take 10 readings before I really get them.
  8. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters – Sinclair Ferguson
    • A LITTLE difficult to read (if you got it free via christianaudio.com, RESIST the urge to listen to it. It’s too difficult to take in as an audiobook). But a good book to read bit by bit in your Quiet Time. Ferguson answers “how do the law and grace relate?” He asserts that legalism and antinomianism are not opposites but “nonidentical twins from the same womb.” “The cure for both legalism and antinomianism is the gospel.”
  9. The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
    • Mixed feelings on this book. I set out on my pilgrimage to read the book because many great Christian thinkers list it as the book that has most influenced them (apart from the Bible). I did NOT think I would be recommending this book. But as it gets going, you get used to the Old English (if you can’t get over that, there ARE modern English versions). For some tips on how to read it see my full review over on GoodReads
  10. The Mortification of Sin – John Owen
    • Owen puts on a master class of how to study the Bible and ask questions of a passage – most of this classic book being an extended meditation on one verse – Romans 8:13. Owen is difficult to read but not impossible.


Top 10 Christian Ministry Books

  1. A Grander Story: An Invitation to Christian Professors
    • liked it so much, this fall I started doing some ministry focused on Professors. Great mix of vision and practical ministry tips.
  2. The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South
    • A game-changing book that explains how the heart of Christianity is in the Global South. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the Global South and it makes me hopeful for the future of Christianity, led by these Global Southerners.
  3. Dedication and Leadership – Douglas Hyde
    • A friend of mine on staff with Cru read 25 books on Movements. This book was in the top 2. (The other: Movements That Change the World by Addison). A former Communist who becomes a Christian, looks at what we can learn from Communism. The book is a case study in how a small minority can literally change the world: “It is probably true to say of the Communists that never in man’s history has a small group of people set out to win a world and achieved more in less time.” Caveat: The book is 100% not gospel centered! Definitely “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “if the communists can be so dedicated and sacrifice so much for a lie, how much more so, Christians…Come on Christians! Try harder!” But… taken with a grain of salt, the book is VERY thought provoking. Particularly relevant for my line of work – college ministry- as the book focuses particularly on how the Communist Party mobilizes young people.
  4. Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry
    • A little technical but very helpful on a difficult topic. Written to youth pastors but easily translates to college ministry.
  5. The Church in the Bible and the World: An International Study – edited by DA Carson
    • Very helpful for my understanding of ecclesiology.
  6. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World – Tim Keller
  7. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
    • The only non-Christian book in this genre. Though a secular book, the content is incredibly relevant for those in ministry (especially college) on the power of community, especially in times of difficulty. My favorite type of book – concise and insightful.
  8. Discovering God’s Will – Sinclair B. Ferguson
  9. The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place – Andy Crouch
  10. The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion – Tim Challies
    • Imho – much better than Tony Reinke’s 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. When I first read this in 2011, it truly changed my life. Opened my eyes to my iPhone addiction and how it was affecting me, my relationship with God and my family. The two chapters on distraction and the flood of information are worth the price of the book. Distraction is the biggest threat to my walk with God and deep thinking. “More information may lead to less wisdom.” I need to take in less information and seek more wisdom. “We need to devote more time to less things.”


Top 10 Historical/Biography

  1. Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow
    • I may be biased because my family LOVES the Hamilton play that was based on this book. But I found it absolutely fascinating.
  2. The Blood of Emmett Till
    • This should be required reading for every American. The story of the horrific death of a young black boy, and more widely, the civil rights movement.
  3. Churchill- Paul Johnson
    • From what I researched, this is the best short biography of Churchill. What an amazing man who almost singlehandedly saved civilization!
  4. Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
    • It’s only by God’s grace that we haven’t nuked ourselves into a nuclear holocaust by now.
  5. Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties.- Paul Johnson
    • It’s long and ambitious. But Johnson brilliantly provides a thorough education on the twentieth century and plainly explains complex issues.
  6. How the Irish Saved Civilization
    • I’ve often heard references to CS Lewis’s warning against chronological snobbery. But I didn’t really believe him. And now I think I understand why- I think it comes from a false view of history as linear and progressive. Reading How the Irish Saved Civilization was eye opening. For 1,000 years knowledge and human learning trended straight upward – great works of architecture, reasoned works of literature, great cities. And then in 500 it all crashed. And all of the wisdom of Western Civilization would have been lost if not for the Irish.
  7. Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark’s Mission to Explore America’s Wild Frontier
    • Fascinating book. Name a more iconic duo. Now name one fact about them other than that they were the first to explore the west. I knew nothing about this famous duo before reading this. Their passage across the virgin west is fascinating – their discoveries, their courage, their leadership. I won’t spoil anything but I was truly shocked by the ending – mostly that I had not heard any of it before.
  8. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill
    • Truly seems Providential that Winston lived long enough to later save the world.
  9. The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation – Michael Reeves
    • Easy and fun to read summary of the Reformation. Interesting note: college campuses figured prominently in the Reformation (Luther, Calvin, Puritans)
  10. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
    • Great book by one of my favorite authors. Reads like a novel but is 100% historical.


Top Leadership/Modern Non-Fiction

  1. Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge
    • HIGHLY recommend this unfortunately named book. From the title, I assumed it would be a book about how to have good work/life boundaries.It is not at all about personal boundaries. It’s one of the best leaders books I’ve ever read. In some ways a best of the best book – bringing together ideas from some of the best leadership books out there – Thinking Fast and Slow, Death by Meeting, 4 Disciplines of Execution. Dr. Cloud is concise and very practical. One thing Dr. Cloud addresses like no other book I’ve read: The Emotional Climate that a leader creates. This one makes a great audiobook.
  2. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
    • Knight is incredibly honest, not skimming over his regrets and mistakes. And I was surprised by the amount of spiritual searching throughout Knight’s life. The audiobook is particularly good. Have recommended this to many and all have loved it.
  3. The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance – Senator Ben Sasse
    • How do you turn children into adults? Senator Sasse is incredibly accurate on his diagnosis AND his prescription. I’m voting for this guy when/if he runs for president. [Update: just found out he was a student leader in Cru at Harvard and his wife used to be on staff with Cru. I knew there was a reason I liked the guy!]
  4. Next Generation Leader – Andy Stanley
    • A small book packed with incredibly leadership insight. Best insight I’ve ever seen on how to lead in the face of uncertainty.
  5. Team of Teams: The Power of Small Groups in a Fragmented World – General Stanley McChrystal
    • This book accomplishes a rare feat – combining incredible insight while being an easy/fun read. It’s the story of how the military had to totally restructure to fight Al Quaeda in Iraq. Which, by itself, makes for fascinating reading. But on top of that, the authors have great insight into how sharing ideas is THE key to managing complexity and achieving organization-wide focus. I particularly liked their insights on how to build trust/sharing when resources are scarce.
  6. Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity – Tim Challies
    • This is more like an extended blog post than a book. But lets be honest, I wouldn’t take the time to read a series of blog posts on productivity. That’s the beauty of books. Books force you to slow down and consider – to think deeply on one topic. And because this book is so incredibly practical, I feel like it will actually change my life more than other, better productivity books like Essentialism and What’s Best Next. My advice: read Essentialism and What’s Best Next first. To change your heart and beliefs. To convince you of the need to: focus/prioritize (Essentialism), understand the Biblical and God-honoring motives for productivity (What’s Best Next). Then read Do More Better to actually start making real changes in your schedule and life.
  7. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
    • How the Jim Crow south forced southern African Americans to migrate to the north and west. Long but really eye opening.
  8. Elon Musk: Inventing the Future – Ashlee Vance
    • About the fascinating founder of Tesla and SpaceX.
  9. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander
    • Would have been all the more powerful if she could have trimmed it to a concise 200 pages rather than a repetitive 300. Nonetheless it was incredibly eye-opening and I’m very glad to see that it has effected change. I’d never say this with most books – but you’d get the same effect from watching the movie/documentary – 13th on Netflix. This book makes you wonder what in the world our government is doing (when compared to other modern states) – appalling and immoral.
  10. The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football
    • Great (and shocking) read for any college football fan. Basically the story of how deeply flawed young men act when given absolute power.


Top 10 Fiction

  1. Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler
    • Outstanding novel based on real events in Communist Russia in the 1950’s. Really helped me understand the mindset of communism in a way no other book has. As an American, I’ve always discounted communists as idiots. Koestler’s account is not favorable to communists but it does show the very intelligent rationale behind brutal communist policies. Makes me want to learn more about the worldviews of the 20th century (which is why I read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times).
  2. Jayber Crow – Wendell Berry
    • This book was good for my soul. I value efficiency and speed and productivity. Wendell Berry describes community in an age before TV’s and cell phones – a life of slowness and anti-efficiency. I think I want what they had. It truly made me consider what life is about – work/productivity or relationships. Makes you contemplate the brevity of life and what truly matters – what you will leave behind. Apart from the theological and interpersonal insights, this book would be worth reading just to wonder at Berry’s writing ability. Like Jared Wilson said – “Reading this book is like laying in cool grass under a spring sun by a lazy brook.”
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird
    • Not much I can say about this classic that hasn’t already been written. As you can see from my list, I’m trying to go back and read the classic novels and, I must say, enjoying them FAR more than I thought I would. I thought they would be difficult and dry. They’re Classics for good reason. They have great plots and great writing. The best of the best.
  4. Silence – Shūsaku Endō
    • A fictional book but based on true events. Enthralling and challenging novel based on the real life persecution of Portuguese missionaries in Japan.
  5. All Quiet on the Western Front
    • Man. What a great, gripping & thoroughly depressing book. I think I was forced to read this book in high school. A good friend, John Majors, recommended the audiobook to me recently. I echo his thoughts on the book: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better performance on an audio book (the narrator was Frank Muller). There were many times I was completely gripped by the drama of the story. I had read this a few years ago and enjoyed it, but it didn’t have near the affect of the audio book. Definitely put this on your listening list. The quality of the writing is among the best of all novels I’ve experienced. And the way he captures the thought life of the soldier is art at its finest.” Loved all the classic books on this list.
  6. Jane Eyre
  7. The Great Gatsby
  8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  9. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  10. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

I just got on GoodReads.com this year and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Great way to track your reading progress, set goals for yourself, and see what other avid readers are reading. Would love to connect over there.

What were your favorite books you read in 2017?