Book Review: Meet Generation Z by James Emory White

As cultural norms and group identities change with every new generation, the message of the gospel must be contextualized in order to speak timeless truth to a new generation. In Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, Dr. James Emery White writes one of the first books to be published on the generation born after 9/11/2001, which he terms “generation z.”  White argues that generation z is the first generation to grow up in a completely post-Christian America.

Meet Generation Z consists of two major sections.  In the first section, readers are introduced to generation z through the preferences, surveys, and statistics of this generation.  This section is some helpful and interesting research for anyone who seeks to minister to the post 9/11 generation.  The strong differences between generation z and the millennials displayed the shifts that happen between generations in ideologies and preferences, yet the religious interest and involvement of generation z was even in a stronger decline than that of the millennials.

The second section of the book focused on how to engage and minister to generation z. These tactics were all built from White’s ministry strategy at his own church. Throughout the second section of the book, it was unclear how the ministry strategy of White’s church was specifically targeted at generation z.  The target of his strategy seemed to be more focused on the unchurched and post-Christian culture as a whole.

The book concludes with an appendix featuring three sermon manuscripts from White’s church with messages on homosexuality, the spiritual world, and the existence of God.  The sermons were helpful resources in understanding how to engage controversial and important topics in a biblically faithful way that engages a post-Christian audience.

Though Meet Generation Z did not focus as much on the next generation as it could have, it was a helpful book for engaging those coming to church with no background of faith and encouraging the church to be intentional to culturally engage future generations.

Book Review: A Commentary on the Psalms (Volume 3 (90-150)) by Allen P. Ross

In A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 3 (90-150), Dr. Allen P. Ross helpfully makes the Psalms come alive to his readers. For each Psalm covered, Ross provides:

  • A Translation of the Psalm, including variants
  • Information about the Context and Composition of the Psalm
  • An Exegetical Analysis, including an exegetical summary and outline of the Psalm
  • A Commentary on the Exposition of the Psalm
  • Message and Application of the Psalm

These are all great helps to allow readers to dive deep into the Psalms of the Bible.  From having Dr. Ross as one of my Hebrew professors, he has a great gift of making the Hebrew texts come alive and relating the truths of these texts to the live of believers.  As a preacher of God’s Word, the Psalms can be difficult to teach and interpret, yet Ross helps to clarify the truths of these powerful texts.

This commentary is a great resource on the Psalms and will be a helpful tool for anyone wanting to dive deeper into the poetry book of the Old Testament.

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!