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: 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: I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian by Thom Rainer

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In I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian, Thom Rainer seeks to further explore the role of a believer within the context of the church, which he began in I Am a Church Member.  Rainer’s goal in this book is to practically challenge and equip church members to engage in the mission and ministry of the local church.

I Will is an important book in that Rainer is challenging the consumerism that so often marks the American church goer.  In a consumeristic society, it is easy for the focus to be on the individual instead of the collective body of the local church.

The areas of practical application that Rainer explores are worship, discipleship, service, missions, and giving.  The book also explores the mindset shift that is required for someone to embrace an attitude of service and investment as opposed to the attitude of consumerism and entitlement.

I Will is a short and important book about the important shift from going to church versus being the church and joining God on His mission through the local church.  Rainer’s biblically grounded and practically illustrated approach help make this an accessible book about an important topic.

Book Review: Pastor to Pastor by Erwin Lutzer

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Those in ministry face unique challenges and pressures that they need a older and wiser mentor to walk them through.  In Pastor to Pastor: Tackling the Problems of Ministry, Erwin Lutzer seeks to be just that mentor.  Lutzer writes this book from his years of pastoral experience from a heart of a servant seeking to faithfully love and encourage other ministers.

Pastor to Pastor addresses the topics of:

  • Calling to ministry
  • Congregation expectations
  • Working with boards and committees
  • Working with people
  • Preaching
  • Leading a congregation
  • Church splits
  • Politics
  • Envy
  • Burnout
  • The church in the world
  • Counseling
  • Worship
  • Invitations
  • Dealing with the judgment of God
  • Theological attitudes
  • Priorities
  • Failure
  • Dealing with those who fall
  • The church

Each topic is addressed in a short and easily digestible chapter that makes this book a good reference book for the pastor’s library.

The most helpful chapters were the ones on counseling, invitations, and the church and the world.  Lutzer has a very thoughtful approach in how a pastor should approach these often controversial topics.  As with all issues raised in this book, Lutzer responds to issues in a way that comes from the text of scripture and is explained through personal examples.  This makes the book a great starting point in approaching pastoral issues that frequently arise in ministry.

In this book, Lutzer presents a helpful and concise resource for pastors and those who feel the Lord calling them to pastoral ministry.  Every pastor needs mentors, and Lutzer provides some helpful mentoring through Pastor to Pastor.

Book Review: When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

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“Does our desire to help those in need cause us to really hurt those in need because we are not thoughtful in our approach to their needs?”  This is the haunting question that Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert bring to light in the challenging yet helpful book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.

I have had this book recommended to me over the past several years since it was first published.  Knowing the contents of this book, I have been hesitant to read it knowing that this book would call me to question and change the way that I view missions and reaching out.  The book has raised more questions than I feel like I have answers to and has opened a discussion that every Christian who has a heart for the needs of others and every Christian leader needs to engage.

Corbett and Fikkert address the programs and approach to poverty ministry in a church, local, and global context.  The book is written in a way that focuses on stories of the good, bad, and the ugly of reaching out to those in need.  The book also includes a storyline that follows a local church as they wrestle with the challenge of helping the hurting without hurting them in the process.

The most helpful ideas in the book, in my opinion, are the equation that often defines people’s relationship to the poor and the definition of an effective method of helping the poor.

The equation of the often found current relationship is:

“Material Definition of Poverty + God-complexes of Materially Non-Poor + Feelings of Inferiority of Materially Poor = Harm to Both Materially Poor and Non-Poor” (p. 64)

Corbett and Fikkert redefine helping the poor through the following method definition:

“Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.” (p. 74)

When Helping Hurts calls Christians and churches to embrace relationships over programs, partnership over ownership, collaboration over process, and holistic life change over a handout.  This is a profoundly helpful and challenging book that will change the way readers think of helping the least of these.

Book Review: Being Church Doing Life: Creating Gospel Communities Where Life Happens by Michael Moynagh

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In Being Church Doing Life: Creating Gospel Communities Where Life Happens, Michael Moynagh explores the practical nature of taking the influence of the gospel into the heart of the culture.  Throughout the history of the church, the church has shifted from being a movement of God’s people in culture to more of an institutional system.  Through his book, Moynagh seeks to bring the ideals of an established church and a home group/small group model together in a way that still encourages involvement in an established church but also keeps the missional heart of a home group movement.

Moynagh refers to these strategic cultural engagement groups as “witnessing communities.”  These are strategic groups of people who have taken the mission of taking the gospel to their world seriously by partnering together to make a difference and build relationships wherever God has placed them.  These communities can begin based on a common interest and location, but the goal is for the Christians in the group to be a spiritual influence on others around them in the group.  These witnessing communities establish safe environments for those outside of the faith to explore Christianity and hear the message of the gospel.

Being Church Doing Life is a strategic guide for those seeking to make an impact in their world through “witnessing communities.”  Moynagh combines a mix of inspiring examples of how God is using this ministry around the world with a list of practical steps to begin your own witnessing community.  This includes steps to get a community started, how to disciple someone in the faith, how to multiply a community, how to relate to the established church, and how to relate to the denomination.  These chapters make Being Church Doing Life a great starter guide for anyone seeking to make an impact through a small group or “witnessing community” ministry.

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Book Review: Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer

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How do you know when your church is in decline?  Are there warning signs?  Can the death of a church be avoided?  These are some of the helpful and thought provoking questions that Thom S. Rainer seeks to address in Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive.  This book emerges from Rainer’s own personal experiences working with declining churches as a church consultant and former pastor as well as a study he did of 14 churches that had died and the causes of these churches closing their doors.

If Rainer’s argument were to be summarized with a single point, it would be that when churches lose sight of others and the mission that God has called them to, they will die.  This loss of focus could come in many different forms: a focus on ourselves, a focus on our preferences, a focus on the past, or a focus on the status quo.  Rainer sights these as well as other barriers as causes for churches to forget the command of the Great Commission, to forget their mission to impact the community, and to forget their purpose.  This loss of perspective of a church leads the church to cease to be what the Bible defines a church to be thus leading the church down a path of decline and eventual death.

Though this is a depressing topic, Rainer seeks to frame it in a perspective of humility and hopefulness.  Each chapter ends with a prayer, which positions the reader seeking God to work in the church, and some questions for discussion.  Rainer also ends the book with some practical ideas for churches that are on the path of death with hopes that God will work in and through the church leadership to bring the church back to life.

Autopsy of a Deceased Church is a very helpful book for church leadership to ask themselves honest questions about where their church stands.  It is also a great reminder that a church without mission ceases to be a biblical and life-giving church.