Archives For Books

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

image courtesy of Pimthida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

45. Cinder– young adult fiction

46. Scarlet– young adult fiction

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

48. Cress – young adult fiction

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

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

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

 

Last but certainly, not least –

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

 

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

What books did you enjoy reading in 2016?

My Top 20 Books of 2016

December 7, 2016 — 8 Comments

If I could choose only one habit to pursue growth it would be to develop a love for books. Reading requires focus and commitment. But the payoff is huge. If you want to jumpstart your leadership growth, spend at least thirty minutes a day reading – Randy Gravitt

As I wrote earlier this year, my main goal for 2016 was to read more books. I’m on course to finish 52 books this year (I read 17 last year).

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 top 20 books I read this year.

Here are the 20 Best Books I Read in 2016

  1. Beyond the Local Church no book this year made me think more than this one.
    • If the Church was doing it’s job, para-churches wouldn’t be necessary. True or False?
    • ‘Beyond’ sets forth a positive vision of how the local and missionary church can partner together.
    • It highlights “a deficient and even aberrant ecclesiology in which the church in its local form is considered supreme and all else is ‘para’—or, even worse, illegitimate. Such a perspective is theologically, historically and missiologically false”
  2. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis fascinating and heartbreaking look at poor whites in America. Makes sense of much of the wave of outrage that Trump rode into the White House. Fair warning – coarse language throughout!
  3. Masterplan of Evangelism hadn’t read this book in YEARS. I won’t make the mistake again. Underlined pretty much every sentence in this book. Dr. Coleman lays out an incredibly practical, Biblical, powerful game plan for ministry. Has a better book on ministry ever been written?
  4. The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving not the first time I’ve read this small book. Like Masterplan, I definitely need to read this book more often. Powerful reminder on living for eternal rewards not temporary comfort. Annually give this to all of our graduating college seniors.
  5. The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters – Dr. Al Mohler it’s like a John Maxwell book with a Biblical backbone. Very practical and insightful.
  6. The God Ask: A Fresh, Biblical Approach to Personal Support Raising This book is a must-read for anyone who raises funds for ministry. Great vision, thorough Biblical basis, and very practical. Pure gold.
  7. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin – fascinating true story of the US Ambassador’s family in Nazi Germany (much of it focused on the Ambassador’s daughter’s trysts with Nazi officers -and even a date with Hitler) and how slow everyone was to see the absolute evil of the Nazis.
  8. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West heartbreaking history of the Old West from the perspective of Native Americans. Really helped me understand the injustice of what happened. Previously, ignorantly, I had wondered – “how is the European conquest of America any different than any other war? To the victor goes the spoils/land.” But the history of the American West is far more tragic and unjust. Treaty after broken treaty. Indians treated as subhuman for centuries (even far beyond the years of African Americans – the 14th amendment that emancipated African Americans specifically excludes Indians as humans with inalienable rights)
  9. A Praying Life very practical, honest book on prayer that covers so much more than just prayer. Very helpful for me in figuring out why I don’t pray!
  10. Movements That Change the World just the kind of book I like: short (129 pages), full of vision, and very practical. From Biblical and historical examples of world-changing movements, Addison distills the essentials of movements. Read in tandem with Masterplan of Evangelism and you’ve got the blueprints for changing the world for Christ.
  11. The History of the Ancient World at 900 pages, this book took FOREVER to listen to. Like 5 months. The author does an admirable job – t’s very well written and not dry. Really helped me understand the world of the Bible – chaos: manmade brutality and natural disasters. A better title might have been – The Misery of the Ancient World. It seems that understanding the instability of the ancient world is crucial for understanding the Bible. Reading from where we sit – in prosperity, comfort and complete safety – it is nearly impossible to understand the frame of mind of ancient Israelites or the early church. That’s why the Bible’s number one command/promise is “Do Not Fear, for I am with you”. Understanding the misery/chaos of the ancient world is the 1st time I’ve understood Israel’s idolatry and worshipping other gods. Ancient people’s greatest desire was protection against being annihilated by another country. So when the Israelites turned to other gods it wasn’t on a whim. They were turning from trusting in God, they were giving into fear, looking to other gods to provide & protect. HotAW ends powerfully – after thousands of rulers, the vast majority whom were violently deposed and murdered, and hundreds of kingdoms over four thousand years- this is how it ends: The greatest empire the world has ever known emerges. Rome succeeds where others have failed – to unite most of the world under one empire and ruler. And yet Christianity is greater still – it is able to do what Rome never managed. “This was the end of the old Rome. But it would turn out to be the rise of something much more powerful [Christianity].”
  12. For the Love of God vol 1&2 – D.A. Carson only ranked this low because they’re atypical books. Daily devotions/commentary from D.A. Carson to read alongside read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. Can’t recommend these two volumes highly enough! Transformed my quiet times. Perfect (short!) length to give a little insight to daily Bible reading.
  13. New Morning Mercies Paul Tripp’s daily devotional – often very good. And always short. Great to have Paul Tripp preaching to you throughout the year. Confession – didn’t read EVERY day – but at least 80% of the days!
  14. Just Mercy enjoyed the book and got the privilege of hearing the author, Brian Stevenson, speak at our university. The book and the author’s talk were very helpful in helping me understand the need for our country to acknowledge the sins of our past. To (painfully) drag them into the light. Brian Stevenson said that our country needs to do a better job of acknowledging the sins of Jim Crow and slavery. Bryan said that he has been invited to speak in Germany – and he would never accept that invitation if Germany still had statues of Hitler and Nazi flags everywhere. On the contrary, Germany, as a nation, has publicly condemned and repented of their past sins. They don’t cover up the sins of the Holocaust. They broadcast them. So that their nation can heal. And yet, in our country we have statues and flags that celebrate our horribly racist past.
  15. Let the Nations Be Glad! – not sure how, but never had read this. WAY more theological (and technical – not an easy read) than I would have guessed. But fantastic and compelling book. Especially learned from Piper’s insights on the use of the word “worship” in the New Testament- “the New Testament is stunningly silent about the outward forms of worship and radically focused on the inner experience of treasuring God, because it is a book of vision for missions in all cultures, not a worship manual for how to “do worship” in our culture.”
  16. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China  GREAT read on the rapid spiritual, moral, and financial changes (especially among young people) in China
  17. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking very insightful – great read for extraverts (who are married to or work with introverts) and introverts alike. Covers how (and why) extroversion became the cultural ideal in America – in the mid-1900’s the White House promoted a slogan: “’A healthy personality for every child.’ Well-meaning parents agreed that quiet was unacceptable and gregariousness ideal for both girls and boys.” Ivy League schools shifted from desiring high character/intellect to “a pretty gregarious, active type.” The author makes a compelling case for the Information Age could be the age of Introverts – people who  think deeply, strategize, solve complex problems and can share ideas powerfully (especially in written form/online). Particularly helpful for college ministers – she writes on how to be introverted in a job/org/church “that prides itself on extroverted evangelism” and how introverts often make the best salespeople (I find Sales to be the most similar secular job to college ministry).
  18. Bloodlines – Race, Cross, and the Christian – John Piper – very helpful, thoroughly Biblical case for the need for racial reconciliation
  19. 1776God Bless America. Truly miraculous how our nation began when most of 1776 looked VERY bleak and the chance of success infinitesimally small.
  20. Team of Rivals well written biography of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Almost brought me to tears when he was (spoiler alert!) killed. How different would our nation be if he could have guided us through reconstruction following the Civil War?

What were your favorite books you read in 2016?

One of my chief goals for this year is to read more. I wrote about why and how here: Read Less Blogs and More Books.
Very briefly-
Why:
The past couple of years I’ve made a conscious effort to shift from less input to deeper reading. Why? Because my voracious reading of new blogs and articles is actually making me less wise. I’m replacing those “must read” late-breaking-this-is-going-to-change-your-life blogposts and articles with the slow, harder work of reading a book. Books make me slow down and absorb information instead of just letting information go in one ear and out the other.
How:
  • I’m tracking how many books I read each year
  • I’ve started listening to audiobooks. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to read more is to take advantage of dead time in my schedule – like driving.
  • I’m committed to reading every night before bed. A great side-effect: when my head hits the pillow I’m asleep in seconds.
It’s April and I’ve already read as many books as I read all last year.
One thing I’ve found challenging – where to find good book recommendations. So in the vein of “do unto others”…

Here’s a few of my favorite books I’ve read in the past year:

Christian:
Historical non-fiction:
Leadership/Business

What are some of your favorite books you’ve read recently?

The past couple of years I’ve made a conscious effort to shift from less input to deeper reading.

I’m reading less blogs, bookmarking less web pages and reading more books (yes, I appreciate the irony that you are reading this on a blog).

It started in 2011 when I read Tim Challies’ book The Next Story. He illuminated a huge idol in my heart (and I believe a chief idol of our age)- informationism:

We have begun to believe that the accumulation of information somehow leads to wisdom, that more information will solve society’s ills and improve our lives. We place our faith in information.

We find joy and life in that information – not in using that information or turning that information into useful action, but simply in its constant flow.

Without the distraction of dealing with vast amounts of information and without overtaxing our brains with hundreds of sources of information, we will have the time to know more about less.

Success in life “is not in the accumulation of facts, but in living a life marked by wisdom, by the application of knowledge.”

What we are finding is that more information does not necessarily lead to more wisdom. In fact, the very opposite may be true.

More information may lead to less wisdom.

That last sentence rocked me. My voracious reading of new blogs and articles is actually making me less wise.

I want to know more about less. It was actually the very secular BBC that reminded me that, primarily, that means I need to read less “news” and soak in God’s Word more:

One of the more embarrassing difficulties of our age is that most of us have quite lost the ability to concentrate, to sit still and do nothing other than focus on certain basic truths of the human condition. We are reluctant to admit that we are simply swamped with information and have lost the ability to make sense of it.

The prestige of the news is founded on the unstated assumption that our lives are forever poised on the verge of a critical transformation. Contrast this with how religions think of what is important. The great stable truths can be carved into stone rather than swilling malleably across hand-held screens. Rather than letting us constantly catch up on “news”, religions prefer to keep reminding us of the same old things.

It is not by reading more, but by deepening and refreshing our understanding of a few volumes that we best develop our intelligence and our sensitivity.

We feel guilty for all that we have not yet read, but overlook how much better read we already are than St Augustine or Dante, thereby ignoring that our problem lies squarely with our manner of absorption rather than with the extent of our consumption.

This clip from Portlandia was me in 2009-2013 (and probably me still!):

Here’s what that has looked like for me. I have over 3,000 unread pages saved in Pocket (a save-to-read-later service)!

Not sure when this “later” is when I’m going to find time to read them.

In 2013 I bookmarked 1,500 sites that I never got around to reading. At that point, I was literally checking 75 blogs every week. I even blogged about why you should read a lot of blogs http://www.timcasteel.com/blogs/how-and-why-to-subscribe-to-blogs/! I still read blogs but almost exclusively blogs related to college ministry (my field of work)

In 2014, I had 1,000 unread bookmarked pages.

And 500 in 2015. If you do the math, that’s not exactly a trickle – I’m still bookmarking almost 2 pages a day. But it’s progress!

I’m replacing those “must read” late-breaking-this-is-going-to-change-your-life blogposts and articles with the slow, harder work of reading a book. Trading candy for meat. Books make me slow down and absorb information instead of just letting information go in one ear and out the other.

Randy Gravitt says:

If I could choose only one habit to pursue growth it would be to develop a love for books. Reading requires focus and commitment. But the payoff is huge. If you want to jumpstart your leadership growth, spend at least thirty minutes a day reading

A few steps I’m taking to read more:

  • I’m tracking how many books I read each year
  • I don’t necessarily want a goal of number-of-books-read because, again, the goal is not more information input. It’s deeper, slower reading. Last year I read 17 books. And I want to read more this year. But I feel like a goal will make me rush through books instead of slowly absorbing them.
  • I’m not finishing every book I start
  • I’ve found one of the easiest ways to read more is to take advantage of dead time in my schedule – like driving. 15 minutes here and there really adds up. So I sucked it up and subscribed to Audible.com (a ridiculous $22/month for two books). I listen at 1.25 speed and can get through two books in a month.
  • I’m committed to reading every night. A couple of years ago my wife introduced the new rule of “no blue light an hour before bed” = no checking twitter or reading online. I’m thankful for God’s grace through her! It made me take up the habit of reading before bed every night. A great side-effect: when my head hits the pillow I’m asleep in seconds.
  • The trick is finding when to read the right kind of book:
    • In the morning I read a spiritually developmental book (right now I’m reading John Piper’s Bloodlines on ethnicity and racial reconciliation). I need to carve out more time for this category. I rarely read during the day.
    • In the car on audiobook I can’t listen to any book that I want to take notes on. I need a book that can just wash over me. That’s more of a story/biography. Shadow of the Almighty – the story of martyred missionary Jim Elliott was perfect. Though there’s plenty of quotes I’d want to underline, I’ve read it enough times that I can just let the story and Jim’s singleminded pursuit of Christ and the Great Commission wash over me. How We Got To Now was also a great one for audiobook. VERY interesting stories of the 6 most important innovations – great stuff to inspire your thinking and own innovation. But nothing much that I’d need to write down to remember.
    • At night, again, I can’t read any book that I’d want to underline or take notes on or that will get my brain’s gears turning. At night my goal is to unwind. So I stick mostly with biographies that inspire. “Readers of good books, particularly books of biography and history, are preparing themselves for leadership. Not all readers become leaders. But all leaders must be readers.” Harry Truman
    • Bonhoeffer was a great nighttime read. Or my current bedtime book- River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. On deck:
  • I’m keeping an Evernote on books I want to read in each of these categories (audiobook, morning, and night reading)

What about you? What helps you read more books?

In what ways have you bought into “informationism”?

Would LOVE book recommendations. List some of your favorites in the comments.

David Mays’ Book Notes on hundreds of books are outstanding and a GREAT way to learn, quickly.

If you’re like me, you have a list of 100 books you want to read and concepts you want to figure out.

David pulls out quotes and main points from each book. For me it’s been a great place to easily copy and paste quotes from some of my favorite books.

Those in ministry can subscribe to his weekly notes for free (you get an email when he adds a new book).

Some notes from great books to get you started (because the list is pretty overwhelming):

JI Packer – Knowing God

David Platt – Radical

Dan Roam – The Back of the Napkin

Seth Godin – Tribes

Neil Postman – Amusing Ourselves to Death

Andy Stanley – The Next Generation Leader

Alan Hirsch – The Forgotten Ways

Shane Hipps – Flickering Pixels

Jim Collins – Built to Last

Chip and Dan Heath – Made to Stick

Tim Keller – The Reason for God

Tim Elmore – Habitudes

Andy Stanley – Making Vision Stick

Andy Stanley – Communicating for a Change

Thomas L Friedman – The World is Flat


Get ESV Bibles for $1 (if you order 240). Great to have to resource students to give to their friends (CCC staff- this is half the price of ordering through the FSK site). HT: Justin Taylor.




Random Tech Tip that I’m really excited about:

This will literally save me years of my life.

Don’t you love how you can zoom in on pretty much any window with the keyboard shortcut ‘command +’ or zoom out by pressing ‘command –’  (photoshop, safari, preview, etc)?

Don’t you hate how you have to manually click on the ‘zoom’ dropdown box to get a dumb Microsoft Word page to zoom in or out?

Here’s how to fix that:

In Word, Go to Tools –> Customize Keyboard

Select the category ‘View’ on the left

In the ‘commands’ list, select ViewZoomIn

Place your cursor in the textbox next to ‘Press new keyboard shortcut’.

Press a combination of keys – I just did the standard command +

Make sure in the ‘Current keys’ box that you are not overwriting something important (you’re not – unless you use the superscript shortcut a whole bunch – or alternate hyphen shortcut for zoom out)

If you’re happy with the shortcut, click on ‘Assign’

Repeat the same operation for ViewZoomOut.

(thanks to Google search and this link for delivering me from this frustration with Word)


Monday Rundown

August 1, 2010 — 5 Comments

To get your creative juices flowing and distract you from your actually working, some interesting links:



  • A ridiculous/interesting article chastising Tim Tebow for “blowing” his entire $2.5 million signing bonus on donations to charities (what a great imitation of our Prodigal God; prodigal= recklessly extravagant).
  • He’s so adept at handling the media’s bewilderment at his “strange” values (remember the “are you a virgin” episode?)
  • From an admitted non-Christian: “we need to be celebrating Tebow for exhibiting that much backbone under such heavy public scrutiny”
  • Love how he uses humor to defuse the situation (with the comment about hookers) as he did with the virgin question:
  • “I think you’re stunned right now,” Tebow joked with reporters after revealing his virginity. “You can’t even ask a question. … I was ready for that question, but I don’t think ya’ll were.”

  • Great short (4 minute) video by Andy Stanley on Leadership (emailed to me by my friend, Chris, who needs to start blogging. Yes, since I’ve started blogging I’ve become a blogging bully. But a bully with a great cause – read this for encouragement on why you should share the wealth via a blog instead of emailing):
  • First Myth: Great leaders are good at everything
  • Second myth: we should focus on our weaknesses rather than maximizing our strengths


  • Brian Barela details on his blog how Guy Chmieleski is bringing 20 college ministry bloggers together in 1 place on Tuesday


  • If you work with young people – high school or college (or have kids) you have to start reading Tim Elmore’s blog (I know many of you already do). Though I’ve received his e-mails for years (and have some of his books) I just checked out his blog for the first time this weekend. Incredible insights. This post in particular is good.
  • Great quote from it: This generation of students are “upload kids forced to attend download schools”


  • Another great resource for college ministers that some of you may have missed: Subscribe to the monthly emails from Ivy Jungle. Great bullet point news items that relates to college students and college ministry.


This is part 2 in a series of posts on the book Souls in Transition.

First the bad news: College-aged young people are “the least religious adults in the United States today.”  Only 20% attend religious services at least once a week.  They are morally adrift and alienated from religion.

These are a few of the findings of the Authors of the book Souls in Transition.

Based on five years of academic research, Souls in Transition presents the best information to date on the spiritual beliefs of the current generation of college students.

Here is what they report about how Emerging Adults (what they call those age 18-22) line up spiritually (and I find this to be less “doom and gloom” than I’d feared):

  • 15% are Committed Traditionalists who “embrace a strong religious faith, whose beliefs they can reasonably well articulate and which they actively practice.” (p 166)
  • 30% are Selective Adherents who “are not that interested in matters religious or spiritual” but do hold to certain aspects of their religious tradition that they pick and choose (p. 167, 295)
  • 15% are Spiritually Open, who “are not personally very committed to a religious faith” but mildly interested and open to some spiritual topics or activities. (p 167)
  • 25% are Religiously Indifferent who “simply [don’t care] one way or the other”.  They “religion really doesn’t count for that much” (p 168, 295)
  • 5% are Religiously Disconnected who have little exposure to religious ideas or people.  Religion is not a particular interest.  They lack “the social and institutional ties to religion to know or care that much about it in the first place.” (p 168,295)
  • 10% are Irreligious who “hold skeptical attitudes about and make critical arguments against religion generally, rejecting the idea of personal faith.” “Religion just makes no sense” (p 168)

So on your typical campus:

  • 15% are “solid believers”
  • No more than 10% are “atheists/agnostics” –
  • 30% come from a churched background (this would be more like 60% on our campus) but are moral relativists
  • 45% are what I would call “Unspiritual but Open” – they would be very receptive to Christians and having a conversation about God

Obviously (like I mentioned re: our campus) you’d have to adjust for your campus but these findings would/should definitely shape the way you approach outreach on your campus.

A few takeaways for our ministry:

  • It might be helpful for staff/students to be able to think through: “which category does the person I’m talking to fit into?”  And then training students how to communicate the message of the gospel to each group.  You wouldn’t talk to a “Religiously Disconnected” student in the same way that you’d talk to a “Selective Adherent”.  The former has never really been exposed to religious beliefs or people.  The latter has been inoculated to the gospel and now want little to do with it (at least during college).
  • At our campus we need to get a lot better at communicating the gospel to our average student: The churched kid who picks and chooses which parts of Christianity he wants to follow: “sex before marriage?  Perfectly fine.  Attending church?  Optional.  Alcohol/drugs?  Why not.  But I feel really guilty. Thanks religion”  The authors summarize their outlook: “I do some of what I can.”  They are religious moralists (and pretty crummy ones, at that) who do not understand the gospel of grace..
  • My heart really goes out to those in the “Unspiritual but Open” category – it just seems like if they just consistently rubbed shoulders with a passionate follower of Christ over the course of a school year, they would be open to the gospel.

What are you takeaways after reading these findings?

Photo courtesy of Neil Dorgan via Flickr


It’s either or.  As a whole, college students are either hostile toward religion or ambivalent/open toward it.

Yes, I know every college student is unique and they range from passionate follower of Christ to atheist.  But when you think about doing college ministry, especially evangelism, what college student are you imagining you will encounter?  An angry, Christian-hating atheist or an open-to-discussion student.

Obviously, your approach to evangelism (as a ministry and as an individual) will be vastly different depending on your answer to that question.

Two landmark books have been published in the last few years on spirituality among the college-aged:

unChristian  &  Souls in Transition

I highly recommend both of them.  Incredibly eye opening.

I just read Souls in Transition this summer and will unpack its content over the next few weeks on this blog.

But, although they have some similarities in their findings  (and both are rather dry books written by researchers – Souls is far tougher to wade through of the two), I think they paint a very different picture of Young Adults (as they call those of college age).

This is a gross generalization but here’s what they conclude about Young Adults:

  • unChristian – There is a growing tide of hostility and resentment toward Christianity
  • Souls in Transition – Most “are OK with talking about religion as a topic, although they are largely indifferent to it”

Working with college students in the Deep South I find the results from “Souls” to be much truer to my experience.  But we live in the Bible belt and I know our students aren’t typical of the average American college student.  College ministers at Cal Berkeley or NYU obviously will encounter a different audience.

What has been your experience in working with “outsider” college students (as unChristian calls non-Christians)?