Book Review: Who Moved My Pulpit? by Thom Ranier

who-moved-my-pulpit-3dHow do you lead effective change within the church?  This is the topic addressed by Thom S. Rainer in Who Moved My Pulpit?: Leading Change in the Church.  Leading change is a challenge especially in established organizations with many people giving input like you have in the context of the local church.

In typical Ranier style, this book is written in an easy to read format that combines stories of local churches with the leadership principles that he is trying to teach.  According to Who Moved My Pulpit?, leading change in the church is accomplished by the following steps:

  • Stop and Pray
  • Confront and Communicate a Sense of Urgency
  • Build an Eager Coalition
  • Become a Voice of Vision and Hope
  • Deal with People issues
  • Move from an Inward Focus to an Outward Focus
  • Pick Low-Hanging Fruit
  • Implement and Consolidate Change

This is a helpful and accessible book for pastors and church leaders seeking to lead their congregation to grow through change. Rainer’s continual focus on relying on God’s work while personally strategizing and preparing for God’s work make this a biblically focused yet practically relevant read for those seeking to lead change.

Book Review: Renovate by Leonce Crump

Renovate- Leonce Crump

How does the power and presence of the gospel enter into a city and bring real, transformational change?  This is the premise behind Pastor Leonce B. Crump, Jr.’s book Renovate: Changing Who You Are By Loving Where You AreRenovate weaves together Crump’s own personal journey as a church planter in inner city Atlanta alongside the things that God has shown him while seeking to live missionally in his neighborhood in a book that challenges each of his readers to truly embrace the gospel by investing in others.

Crump effectively encourages his readers of the incarnational ministry of Jesus- He came to live among us in order to invest in our lives.  It is by embracing Jesus’ model of ministry that we can truly effect change and gospel impact to those around us.  Crump reminds us that as Christians we are sent into the places where God has put us and may be sending us in the future.  In these places where we find ourselves, we must live like missionaries by seeking to understand the culture and its needs prior to proposing our own solutions to the culture’s problems.  In seeking to minister in a place, Crump reminds us that it takes time to see impact and that investment needs to be for the long haul in a community.  As we seek to live as sent ones being intentional to live for the glory of God and the good of the city, we will see God begin to work.

Renovate also addresses some of the racial tensions that we see in our world in a very helpful way.  Through Crump’s own personal story and learnings as an inner city church planter, he articulates some helpful things that members of the predominate culture should consider.  It is through seeking to see the world through someone else’s eyes that true understanding and change can come.

Crump’s call to Renovate is a clear and gospel-focused call to minister to people like Jesus would.  It is a helpful and challenging read for ministers seeking to reach their cities as well as Christians seeking to live on mission in the place that God has planted them.

Book Review: Finding God in the Hard Times by Matt and Beth Redman

Finding God in the Hard TimesHow do you worship God in challenging times?  It is easy to praise God when things are going well, yet it can be difficult to respond in faith and worship when times are hard.  In Finding God in the Hard Times: Choosing to Trust and Hope When You Can’t See the Way, worship leaders and fellow sufferers, Matt and Beth Redman lead readers through the narrative of their song “Blessed Be Your Name” on a journey to discover how to respond in faith when you want to run from God.

The Redmans write about the importance of remembrance in difficult times.  When God seems distant and the circumstances seem overwhelming, we remember who God is and how He has worked in our lives in the past.  Since God never changes, the past faithfulness of God in our lives serves as a reminder of His continuing faithfulness to us in the challenging circumstances that we are facing.

Throughout difficult times, the Redmans also call their readers to rest in God’s plan and control.  God has a plan that He is working in the lives of His people for His glory and their good.  It is by clinging to the bigger story that God is writing with our lives that we have hope in hard times.

Since our lives are fortunately not constant paths of suffering, the Redmans write about the importance of praise in the good times.  When times are going well, we must live from a posture of constant thankfulness.  In this posture, we acknowledge that all good things are gifts from God that we should return to Him through our praise and our service.

Finding God in the Hard Times is a short and hope-filled book that will encourage any believer walking through times of suffering.  Through personal narrative and letters from others, the Redmans give us encouragement that God is in control and that hope still exists.  The small group questions included at the end of each chapter also make this a good resource for a small group to walk through together.

Book Review: Critical Conversations by Tom Gilson

Critical Conversations

Parents and youth leaders constantly face the challenge of communicating timeless biblical truths to students in the midst of a world that constantly stands against these biblical truths.  There is no topic as front and center in this need for important conversations that the topic of homosexuality.  Our culture constantly teaches against a biblical sexual ethic and many times celebrates people’s personal sexual expression no matter how contrary to the biblical ethic it may be.  Into these challenging conversations between parents, youth leaders, and students, Tom Gilson presents a helpful resource titled Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens.

Critical Conversations is broken down helpfully into three segments.

The first segment addresses the biblical and cultural background necessary for understanding the ongoing cultural and biblical conversation regarding homosexuality.  Gilson has an especially insightful chapter about the role of the sexual revolution of the 1960s opening the door for the homosexual movement of today.  Throughout the book, Gilson stands clearly on a biblical ethic that homosexuality is a sin, yet Christians should respond in grace towards people no matter what they believe about sexual ethics.

The second segment of the book is a helpful discussion on how students should relate to other people through relationships who live out a different view on homosexuality or disagree with the biblical sexual ethic.  The key relationships discussed include relationships with friends, teachers, administrators, and professors.  The tips in this segment of the book are very practical while encouraging students to not back down from biblical truth while also responding in love.

The final segment of the book discusses common challenges that Christians will face regarding the topic of homosexuality.  Each specific challenge is academically and logically addressed then leading parents and youth ministers to some ideas on how to engage your student in this conversation.  The final segment is a resource that will be very helpful to parents and adult leaders.

In the middle of a topic where many new books are being written, Critical Conversations stands as a readable and very helpful resource for parents and youth pastors.  Gilson does not back down from an academic and biblical discussion of the key issues, yet he also presents his arguments in a way that is easily accessible to those who are simply trying to better disciple and equip the students they love.

Book Review: (Un)qualified by Steven Furtick

Unqualified- FurtickWhat does it take to be used by God?  Many people struggle with feelings of uncertainty and worthlessness and wonder if God could ever use them for His kingdom work.  God is in the business of using those who understand their deep need for Him to do great things for His fame in the world.  This is the thesis behind Steven Furtick’s new book (Un)qualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things.

(Un)qualified is a story that begins with Furtick hearing a famous evangelical pastor in an interview referring to him as someone who was unqualified to do ministry.  These are words that can bring much hurt and pain, but Furtick’s response was to agree with this pastor because biblically, we are called to be people who follow God through surrender to His work in and through us.

Furtick’s book speaks to the feelings of brokenness and insecurity that everyone feels.  He does an effective job of connecting with the struggles that many face and giving biblical wisdom on how God truly sees us.  It is in finding our identity first and foremost in Jesus that we can discover who we are and how God can use us.

The book then points to Jesus’ sufficiency in our weakness.  Through the biblical narratives of Paul and Jacob, Furtick points to the importance of a humble reliance on Jesus to be our sufficiency and to lead us to be people who can serve Him and His kingdom.  The reality is that Jesus’ work through us is how we can truly serve God and minister to others.

(Un)qualified is a very helpful book on a topic that we need to constantly remind ourselves about.  We are not sufficient; Jesus is the only One who is sufficient.  We are not good enough; Jesus is the One who is good in us and through us.  These are great gospel truths that all Christians need to cling to as they seek to follow Jesus and live the Christian life!

Book Review: Live Love Lead by Brian Houston

livelovelead

In Live, Love, Lead, Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston shares his insights from his own spiritual journey and the journey of Hillsong Church in a way that is powerful, practical, and relevant to both the ministry leader and everyday Christ-follower.  Houston’s book is very real in that it doesn’t only share the successes and happy moments of the Hillsong journey and his personal walk with Jesus.  This is a book written through times of great spiritual and personal darkness, yet Houston constantly challenges his readers to cling to hope and grace with faith knowing that God is truly at work in all seasons of life.

Live Love Lead is a challenge to readers to find their spiritual gifts and calling and to pursue Jesus and building His kingdom in the midst of wherever God has placed them.  Houston clearly believes that God has gifted every member of the church for ministry and has given them a unique calling to impact the world.  Through this impact, God’s kingdom is spread throughout the world.  This is a compelling presentation of the Great Commission and a call for every follower of Jesus to join into God’s work.

Houston constantly points his readers to the hope of grace and the gospel while also reminding them that God has a plan that He is ultimately going to fulfill.  This eternal hope is the driving power for the believer in the midst of the challenges of living for and serving Jesus in the midst of the world.  This is the hope that the Christian longs for and that Houston clearly challenges the church to long for on a deeper level.

Live Love Lead is a compelling book written from the personal and ministry struggles and successes of a successful global pastor.  It is a read that challenges Christians to pursue who they are in Jesus and how He may be calling them to impact their world as they seek to live for Jesus, love others, and lead the kingdom.

Podcast: The Gospel According to Jonah- Part 2

This is a sermon that Ben Birdsong preached at Meadow Brook Baptist Church on Sunday, October 11th, 2015 titled “The Gospel According to Jonah- Part 2.”  This sermon comes from Jonah 3-4Open Link in New Window and is the second in a two part sermon series on the message of the gospel of grace through the story of Jonah.