Archives For Sharing

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.

Ministry/Leadership

  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

Historical

  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

Fiction

  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?

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?

 

Here’s a few devos that I’ve done with our team that are great for vision/encouragement during this difficult and exciting time of the fall!

We Are Not Peddlers

  • Read and discuss II Cor 2:14-3:6 together – this is especially appropriate in the fall as we’re knocking on doors!
  • Who is adequate for such a task?
  • Our inadequacy forces us to trust in God

Parable of the Sowers – 

  • 75% of work evangelistically will go down the drain – which is incredibly discouraging
  • But we keep turning over rocks because that one gem, that one student who becomes a Christ centered laborer will “indeed bear fruit and yield a hundredfold”
  • Keep sowing. And sow broadly
  • We are turning over rocks, knocking on doors – looking for where God is at work
  • Trusting that God will lead us to open people
  • We’re not doing Find Build Send – our job is not to fill a meeting room.
  • Movements are built on lost students coming to Christ and experiencing radical grace.

Buoyancy and the Three P’s of Resiliency

  • How do you keep going when students never text back?
  • Buoyancy is the ability to bounce back from rejection. Over and over and over.
  • The Three P’s of Resiliency:
    • Personal—bad things are happening because I am bad in some way.
    • Pervasive—it’s not just one or two things that are going bad, nothing is going well.
    • Permanent—I don’t think things are going to change. Nothing is going to be any different. So why try?

photo courtesy of Boston Public Library

Here are 4 videos you could use to cast vision at a weekly meeting for what students are stepping into when they come to a Cru weekly meeting.

Have You Ever Wondered, “Why Me?”

Great vision. High energy. Maybe aimed more at leaders (it asks the question – “who will you share the gospel with?”).

Length: 3:23

The History of Cru 

Not sure if we’ll use this one as it ends on a bit of a downer (Vonette’s death). Good historical perspective of what students are stepping into – we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Length: 2:16

What is community to Cru?

This one might be the best of the bunch. No words. Just a picture of the global community of Cru.

Length: 1:49

Text Meeting Intro

This one is super old (probably made in 2011??). We don’t use it anymore. But here it is fwiw.

Length: 1:07 (it intentionally has 30 seconds at the end of blank screen with background music so MC’s can walk up on stage during that part)

 

I try to share resources that can be shared by any type of college ministry.

Unfortunately these videos will probably only be useful for Cru movements (because of the content/branding)!

What other videos do you know of that you’ve showed at a weekly meeting?

 

In college ministry, all weeks are NOT created equal. The first 4 weeks of the fall will have repercussions on your ministry for 4 years.
“If you pay the price in the first 6 weeks of the year you will reap the rewards for the next four years. If you blow the first six weeks you will pay the price for the next four years.” Brian McCollister
From a human perspective, what you do with your team and student leaders in August will determine whether you emerge from the hurricane of the first weeks riding a wave of gospel movement or find yourself completely spent with little to show for it.

 

So what do your staff need to do in August to get ready for the fall (while I focus here specifically on staff, most of this applies to student leaders as well)?

As you start the fall of college ministry, there are four big things your staff need:

  1. The Foundation= the indispensable priority of reading God’s Word

The foundation for the whole fall is built on your staff and student leaders walking with God.

Our ultimate goal in college ministry = every nation worshipping Jesus.

Specifically, we want to build movements of spiritual multiplication that send laborers to the world. We want students to graduate with a personal conviction from Scripture for fulfilling the Great Commission. The primary means for all of this is that our staff and student leaders would:

Read the Bible, see His glory, savor Christ, be transformed.

Only when this happens will He be proclaimed.

“God has made the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally the indispensable means of achieving the ultimate goal of the universe.…The ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. The Bible is not incidental or marginal or optional in God’s ultimate purpose for redemptive history. It is essential. It is necessary.” John Piper- Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Do not assume that your staff are reading their Bibles and walking with God. Do not assume that your student leaders know how to spend time daily with God. Start with the basics. Once students trust Christ, the greatest gift you can give them is a lifetime of reading and being changed by God’s Word. The way you give that gift to your students is by teaching them, in college, how to daily read and submit to God’s Word.

This two page article Spending Time Daily in God’s Word is a great way to discuss this foundational first step with your leaders.

 

  1. Connect as a family (who) – 71% of Millennials want their coworkers to be a second family
  2. Direction and clarity of role (what) – what does it look like for me/us to succeed? The short of it- success in the first 4 weeks = reaching freshmen by sharing the gospel broadly. Here is a step by step on how to do that.
  3. Vision for reaching college students (why) – “You can pretty much assume that most staff return [in the fall] willing and able but not very motivated and with little or no vision.” As Simon Sinek says, I usually begin with this step – the Why.

A few helpful starting-the-fall tips for Team Leaders:
  • If you are a Team Leader I highly recommend reading this short article – Orienting Your Team
  • Pick staff to fill two key roles:
    • First Week Director (coordinates outreaches during move in week) and
    • Follow Up Director (getting thousands of contacts and making sure they get followed up). This frees the Team Leader to focus on the team/movement instead of the millions of details associated with the First 4 Weeks.
  • Don’t assume that everyone is on the same page as far as Ministry Philosophy. Communicate clearly on how we do things. We have a one page sheet called “How we do Ministry – One Page” which, as you would expect, tells our entire philosophy of ministry on one page!
  • Meet with key students leaders to plan the two night student leadership retreat (this retreat happens the week before classes start)
  • Encourage staff to get all personal things done before they report back. I usually email something like this:
    • “Please have all your personal stuff done before next week (moving in, raising support, prayer letter, etc) as we will be pretty slammed starting Aug. 8 (so take advantage of the next few days to get all personal stuff done!)”
  • Confirm details for fall retreat – speaker, location, band, start work on brochure/promo video (highly recommend just using one of these excellent designs)
  • Plan out planning days. Here’s what our planning week looks like:
    • 2 days of planning 9-noon. Afternoons spent working on reserving locations, getting donations from local businesses (for door prizes for cookouts), working in smaller groups with other staff on specific tasks
    • 1-2 days on a staff retreat (all fun/no work)
    • 2 more days planning 9-noon. Afternoons working on team to-do’s.

Here’s links to details for each of our planning days:

  • Day 1 – connecting as a family; immediate to-do’s
    • I think it’s helpful to have a new staff/intern orientation (for new staff and interns) – One of our senior staff leads that in the afternoon after planning. Here’s our content.
  • Day 2 – nailing down critical path steps; refresher on what we planned in the spring
  • Day 3 – Vision and Clarity of Job What does it look like for me/us to succeed?
  • Day 4 – split men/women to nail down student community group leaders and discipleship; odds and ends; vision for sending
What I usually do to get ready for the fall is read back over all our notes from our 4 days of spring planning (kept in Google Drive). Just get myself up to speed. Then I look over the the first four weeks calendar. Here’s ours:
1st 4 weeks of class Calendar 2015

What helps you prep for the fall?

 

An annual tradition on the blog – a ton of stuff you can use on campus these first few weeks. Hopefully it saves you some time or gives you ideas.

First Week Fliers, Snapchat Filters and Fall Retreat Resources

The Cru design folks have put together some phenomenal stuff at cru.org/fieldops. Best of all, it’s editable (making most of it is usable for non-Cru ministries) and FREE.

The Fall Retreat stuff is incredibly helpful:

  • There are Fall Retreat designs (includes a flier, powerpoint slides, and social media)

  • And maybe even more helpful, a bunch of resources for putting on a fall retreat – task lists, roles, timelines, sample content/program/schedule

There’s snapchat filters for things like your weekly meeting and fall retreat.

 

There’s a great guide on how to leverage Social Media in the first 6 weeks. There’s editable fliers for all kinds of first week events. 

 

Cool Music


Here’s an all-new 2017 Spotify playlist that we use at all of our freshmen cookouts and our weekly meeting.

It’s a mix of Indie Rock, Pop/Dance, and Christian Hip Hop.

We pay $10 for the month of August to get Spotify Premium so you don’t have annoying commercials.

glow sticks and beach balls1

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? Your music that you’re playing before the meeting.

And what happens when they hear Newsboys or Michael W Smith pumping out of your speakers? You immediately confirm their worst suspicions that you are cheesy and out of touch with their reality.

As much as I am not a big fan of hip hop nor dance music, at our weekly meeting we include quite a bit of hip hop/dance. I run the music at our regional winter conference and can conclusively say that hip hop & dance makes a marked difference on the “vibe” of the crowd. It makes your meeting a party. Literally. People dance. Especially if you add beach balls and glow necklaces (we have our first 2 weekly meetings outside – beach balls may be a little less fun indoors).

 

Spiritual Interest Survey

We’ve put a lot of effort into streamlining our Spiritual Interest Survey card. We do it with 3000 freshmen/students the first week of class – so we want it to be quick and effective. Click here to download the editable PDF (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers). Click for an adapted version we use at a Community College – pdf or Photoshop. And here’s one we use with athletes for AIA – pdf or Photoshop.

1 Minute Questionnaire

And this is NC State Cru’s sharp looking survey card (click to download – unfortunately it’s in Apple Pages – so Mac’s only):

Cru Freshmen Survey Card (NCSU)

Cru Card

Our Cru Card that we use for our weekly meeting is similar but a bit different from the survey. You can download the editable PDF (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers) file here.

1 Minute Questionnaire

Simple Cru Flier

Nothing special. But I always think it’s fun to see what other campuses do for promo. Here’s the editable PDF for the first (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers). And the Photoshop file for the color version.

Dorm studies 2015

generic dorm studies 2015

We used to do them in color but have found that b/w is just as sharp looking IF:

  • You print them on card stock
  • Have them “cut to bleed” (so that there is no white border)

First Week Events Flier

A few ideas from across the U.S.:

Ours:

welcome week events final

Florida Cru:

cru at UF welcome week events

Christian Challenge – Chico State – Paul Worcester:

worcester first week events

Older Fall Retreat Brochures

If you don’t like any of the aforementioned Fall Retreat designs, here’s some other designs we have used before.

Here’s our 2016 Fall Retreat brochure (designed by Cru designer Jamie Wang).

CARK Fall Retreat Template 2016_outside

CARK Fall Retreat Template 2016_inside

Besides the basic flier that you can edit and make your own, Jamie has a folder full of goodies: Facebook profile pics, slides, etc.

For Printing Flyers: You should be able to fit four of the flyers on an 8.5 x 11″ page. Tell FedEx it has a 1/8″ bleed.

Here’s our 2015 brochure (designed by Cru designer Libby Slaughter). And here’s the photoshop files so you can edit it and use it!

Fall Retreat outside

Fall Retreat inside

Here’s our 2014 brochure and a post with 4 different (older) Fall Retreat Brochure designs we’ve used. Photoshop file

Just front of brochure

Campus Brochures

A leaving piece that explains everything we do offer in Cru. See here for more details and to download.Arkansas brochure

Arkansas brochure inside

First 4 Weeks Calendar

Always fun to see how other ministries operate. So here’s an overview of what our First 4 Weeks calendar looks like. Here’s a template you can use.

first 5 week calendar

Other Stuff

All this stuff is from Jamie Wang that she has graciously made available to all – to edit and make your own.

From Jamie:

1. Cru Campus Magnet -I made this for Arkansas last year. This was a gift to their campus supporters.
2. Cru Main Meeting Slides -These are generic slides for a main meetings. Keep in mind the difference between 16:9 and 4:3
4. Cru Photos -to use in promo pieces for your campus or prayer letters, etc.
 
    – The retractable banners are all in viewing options because the files are too big
    – jpg for viewing
    -.psd file including 8 photo options for poster
-for Pages and Publisher
-Great if you need some help kickstarting your newsletters!

What about YOU?

Do you have any stuff your campus uses that would be helpful to share? Link to it in the comments!

 

The two largest college ministries, Cru and InterVarsity, have announced a desire to work together to reach every campus in the U.S.
Jason Thomas, the Executive Vice President of Field Ministry for InterVarsity (the Chief Ministry Officer for InterVarsity), made the announcement to 4,000 Cru staff at Cru17, Cru’s biennial staff conference.
Jason Thomas shared how in the last couple years InterVarsity has undergone significant changes.
He shared that several things have led to InteVarsity’s organizational reorganization:
  1. “We’ve been growing – new staff and team leaders
  2. We’ve had an unprecedented number of staff hitting retirement age
  3. We’ve been trying to ask our directors to not think about how many campuses do you have (what is) to how many campuses are in your scope (what could be). It’s very clear – that our focus has become every campus in the nation.
So we’ve been asking how can we reorganize around that vision?
It’s led to a lot of new leadership.
90% of our IV executive leadership team is new to their job in the last 10 months (among the 25 leaders at the VP, Executive VP, President level).
We are working to discern a 2030 vision that is forcing us to think differently – to innovate and to partner. To ask: “what could we do together with Cru that we couldn’t do alone?”
Could we together think about every campus? Could we mobilize people to pray on every campus?
We’re praying for revival, renewal, a great awakening among the 23 million college students and faculty in America. And I’m praying, “God, I want to be a part of this!
Founded in 1941, InterVarsity is one of the oldest and largest campus ministries. Cru started in 1951 and is the largest missions organization in the world.

 

In 2015-2016, InterVarsity was on 667 campuses, with over 41,000 students involved, and 1,329 Staff.

 

Cru is on 758 campuses and has roughly 68,000 students involved and 4,000 U.S. campus staff.

May God use this new partnership to reach more college students with the gospel on more campuses!

I thought this was fun to see – how God continues to use Cru to reach college students with the gospel.

note: stats include faculty and high school although vast majority involved (93%) are college students.

A few thoughts:

  • In college ministry, numbers like these are all the more incredible because every year you have to reload. Even maintaining the number of students involved requires a tremendous amount of work. It’s not like Cru just added 19,000 more students involved in the last decade. Those 48,367 students from 2006 graduated and are gone. 67,958 new students got involved.
  • “Exposures” counts EveryStudent.com (a website of Cru campus ministry) in 2006 and 2016 (1996 being pre-internet) – Praise God for the internet! But obviously that skews the numbers a bit.
  • “Decisions” does NOT count EveryStudent.com. If you include decisions made on EveryStudent.com, 84,859 and 378,564 trusted Christ in 2006 and 2016 respectively.

cru-over-last-two-decades

This just represents one organization among many churches and organizations that are reaching an increasing number of college students. The best is yet to come in college ministry! I can’t wait to see what God does in the next decade through churches and organizations committed to doing the hard work of reaching college students with the gospel.

The History of Cru

July 14, 2017 — 7 Comments

These videos and this book should be required for all Cru staff.

Cru just released (June 2017) a 5 part video series (you can watch them below) on the History of Cru (They’re not exactly going viral – only 49 people have watched them!).

As a staff member, they’re really fun to watch, and a reminder of how greatly God has used Cru to bring millions to know Him. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants.

So much of what we take for granted now in Evangelicalism is wrapped up in the history of Cru. Not to say that Cru is exclusively responsible for what God did in these areas. Obviously all glory goes to God and not Cru or these men and women. And MANY ministries and churches played a role in all of the following. But Cru played a major role in:

  • Developing the personal support raising model that is widely used by all missions organizations – “In an era of falling church investment in evangelism, Bill Bright pioneered the individual missionary support model, which seeks commitments from 50 to 100 individuals to give regular monthly amounts.” Now, there is some debate on whether this was good or bad. And obviously it’s not the ONLY way. But it radically widened the bottleneck for laborers. You can only send out as many laborers as you can salary. And central fund raising severely choked the laborer pipeline. And Bill Bright’s innovation enabled hundreds of thousands of laborers to GO. If you’re on support, you may not be the biggest fan of MPD, but consider this – Cru staff made $100 a MONTH before Dr. Bright innovated the personal support raising model! Which do you prefer?
  • The rapid spread of the gospel through the Global South via the JESUS Film. Aside from the aggressive translation of the Bible by Wycliffe, I can’t think anything else that has so greatly multiplied the reach of the gospel.
  • The rise of evangelicalism in America (not aways a good thing!) – more on that below, with the book
  • Christian contemporary music (again, definitely not always a good thing!)
  • The renewed focus on evangelism in the 20th century= Cru + Billy Graham. Billy Graham brought a crusade/event driven evangelism. Cru brought training in personal evangelism.
  • Sending college students on summer missions trips
  • Using culturally relevant means to share the gospel (as opposed to the cloistered fundamentalism that was the dominant form of evangelicalism). Cru was widely criticized for their open stance to the culture. America was greatly altered by this.
  • Millions of churches being planted across the U.S. and around the world. Case in point – Cru played an ENORMOUS part in shaping my state of Arkansas. Fellowship Little Rock and Fellowship Northwest Arkansas are two of THE most effective, large, and fruitful churches in the state. Both were started by former Cru staff and students who graduated from college and longed to replicate what they had experienced in Cru – aggressive evangelism and discipleship – in a church. So they started those churches. Not to mention the incredible impact an Arkansas Cru grad, Dennis Rainey, has had on our state/nation/world through founding Family Life Ministries. That’s not to mention the number of Cru alumni who went on to seminary to become pastors- I heard the story once that in the late 1970’s at Dallas Theological Seminary, someone conducted an informal survey in his first year Greek class of 40-some students, “How many of you here either came to Christ, or were discipled through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ?” Every hand (except for one) was raised.
  • And last, but certainly not least, the critical importance of the college campus in changing the world for Christ (shoutout to Navs and Intervarsity for doing this too!)

What first opened my eyes to the history of Cru is the book:

Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America.

The author set out (for his doctoral dissertation) to find the roots of the rise of American Evangelicalism in the latter half of the 20th century. He was not familiar with Cru but in his research he began to see what a critical role Cru played in the surge of Evangelicalism. So he gives an (what I thought was very) objective history of Cru (warts and all).

On the less objective side (but nonetheless excellent and well worth watching!) – these five 20-minute videos do a great job of summarizing the history of Cru. Very inspiring. We stand on the shoulders of giants – men and women who have creatively, boldly, and passionately shared the gospel with millions of people. There’s much work to be done. It’s a privilege to take the baton from them to continue the work.

 

We’re halfway through the year AND it’s summer. What better time to share some of my favorite books I’ve read this year?

My 20 favorites I read in the first half of 2017, ranked:

  1. You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity – Francis and Lisa 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. Such a good book (I listened to it on audiobook). “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. You exist to make disciples. Your marriage exists to make disciples. This should dictate where you live/work/spend your $/time—everything!”
  2. The Meaning of the Pentateuch by Sailhamer – 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. The Pentateuch looks beyond the law of God to his grace. The purpose of the Pentateuch is to teach its readers about faith and hope in the new covenant.” 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The Meaning of Marriage – Tim and Kathy Keller – I’ve read over 20 books on marriage/dating/sex and this is by FAR the best (yes, better than the #1 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. This is my second time to read it and I plan to re-read it often. Incredibly practical and insightful. I work in college ministry and I recommend this to every college student I counsel re relationships or dating. Every person who is single should read this book pre-marriage.
  5. Silence by 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.
  6. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – Had several people recommend this book and what cemented it for me was seeing it on Bill Gates’ top 5 books of 2016. Not your typical Gates’ recommendation (usually his book recs are pretty cerebral!). Shoe Dog did not disappoint. 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.
  7. Darkness at Noon – 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).
  8. Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties – Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s long. And ambitious. I want to read everything by this author. He has such an unbelievable grasp on an amazing amount of topics. He truly gives a thorough education on the twentieth century. I listened to it on audiobook. Probably would have been better to read but worked fine as audiobook. I probably just missed some of the more profound, difficult ideas.
  9. Elon Musk: Inventing the Future –  about the fascinating founder of Tesla and SpaceX.
  10. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – a LITTLE difficult to read. But a good book to read bit by bit in your Quiet Time. This book was incredibly helpful for me, especially reading it on the heels of Sailhamer’s “The Meaning of the Pentateuch.” 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.”
  11. Dedication and Leadership – a former Communist who becomes a Christian, looks at what we can learn from Communism. In some ways this book is dated. In others, it is particularly well suited for our times. 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.
  12. Churchill – Paul Johnson – from what I researched, this is the best short biography of Churchill. What an amazing man who almost singlehandedly saved civilization!
  13. Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice – Great, short book. Can easily be read in a week of quiet times.
  14. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania – great book by one of my favorite authors. Reads like a novel but is 100% historical.
  15. Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark and the Opening of the American West – Stephen E. Ambrose – 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. The ending of the book was shocking. I won’t spoil anything but I was truly shocked- mostly that I had not heard any of it before.
  16. Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety – another fascinating book. It’s only by God’s grace that we haven’t nuked ourselves into a nuclear holocaust by now.
  17. When Breath Becomes Air – VERY well written memoir of a neurosurgeon who gets terminal cancer
  18. Thinking, Fast and Slow – great and fascinating, if a bit academic, insights on how we make decisions
  19. The Pilgrim’s Progress – 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
  20. The Church in the Bible and the World: An International Study – DA Carson – very helpful for my understanding of ecclesiology
Though I haven’t quite finished it, I can’t help but include the book I’m trudging (in the best possible sense) through right now because it will easily be in the top 5 – Piper’s Reading the Bible Supernaturally. SO good. Not a real easy read. But perfect to bite off a piece every morning in Quiet Times.

“When young leaders in my organization ask me what they can do to grow, my first response is always pretty obvious: read! Leaders are readers. I believe the answer to pretty much every question you can think of is already in a book somewhere.” – Dave Ramsey

If you’re looking for lighter, summer reading (i.e. – not heavy, theological books), the list would be-

Super-easy, fun reads:
  1. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
  2. Elon Musk: Inventing the Future
  3. Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
  4. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
  5. When Breath Becomes Air
 
A little more challenging, but not-too-hard reads:
  1. The Blood of Emmett Till (NOT light in subject matter, but easy to read and a very good and important read)
  2. Silence
  3. Darkness at Noon
  4. Churchill – Paul Johnson
  5. Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark and the Opening of the American West – Stephen E. Ambrose
I just got on GoodReads.com this year and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Great way to track your reading progress and set goals for yourself. Would love to connect over there.

What about you? What are your favorite books you’ve read in 2017?

image via quotefancy