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: 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: Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

Messy Grace

Balancing the truths of God’s Word while staying gracious towards others is a constant tension in which the Christian life is lived.  This tension is seen very clearly in the debates and discussions within the church regarding the topic of homosexuality.  How do we as Christians stand with the biblical precedent that homosexuality is a sin while also responding in love and grace towards those struggling with homosexuality?

Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others without Sacrificing Conviction is a very helpful resource in helping the church begin to better answer this question.  Caleb Kaltenbach writes with the heart of a son for parents that he loves yet disagrees with while refusing to compromise the Bible’s teachings on the topic of homosexuality.

Written through the lens of Caleb’s life story, Messy Grace is a powerful testimony to the work of God in His life while also clearly showing the areas where Christians have failed to show grace to his parents and to others regarding homosexuality.  The hatred of Caleb’s parents for Christians throughout the majority of the book’s storyline is not without warrant.  Many people failed to represent Jesus well to those who did not know Him.  These chapters also show the amazing grace of God in saving Caleb, drawing him to Himself, and calling him to ministry.  The weaving of the grace of God in the midst of the Kaltenbach family is truly a work of grace.

In the midst of a very heated topic in the church, Messy Grace does a very effective job of shining a light on the humanity of the struggle while calling the church to engage people with the gospel while leading with grace but never denying truth.  This is a challenging read that anyone seeking to engage others should read and consider.

Book Review: Dirty God by Johnnie Moore

In Dirty God, Johnnie Moore paints a compelling picture of the power of the gospel to transform the way we minister to the least of these.  Prior to this book, Moore was an unknown author to me, but by journeying through Dirty God, I have a desire to read more books by him.  He is an engaging writer who brings together his personal stories on the mission field with a solid theological understanding of the amazing nature of the incarnation.

Dirty God will make you view Jesus becoming a man, i.e. the incarnation, in a new light.  Moore argues that if we are going to truly be followers of Jesus we need to be willing to get dirty for the cause of the gospel.  He reminds his readers that Jesus forfeited the respect of the religious elite of His day in order to be about bringing His kingdom to the darkest and most broken places on the planet. Moore calls his readers to be willing to sacrifice for the cause of Christ by bringing the hope of the kingdom to the dark places.

This book is written as a call to get dirty.  Moore reminds us that as Christians we have a great mission and follow a great Savior.  He was willing to give His all for us so our response of worship should be to give our all for Him for the sake of broken people in our neighborhoods, communities, and world.

Book Review: The Customer Rules by Lee Cockerell

In The Customer Rules, former Disney executive Lee Cockerell presents 39 clear applicational principles for good customer service.  These principles are broken up into simple chapters that the reader can easily digest in a single sitting.  I found it helpful to read a chapter a day, and then to think about the application of the principle to my life.  Cockerell’s years of business and customer service experience make him an excellent person to write on this topic.

The main point of the book is to keep your customers constantly in mind and to do everything in your power to exceed their expectations.  He illustrates this point clearly through both positive and negative customer service experiences.  This makes pictures of success and failure clear to the reader.

The Customer Rules is a great resource for any person who works with people in his or her life or business.  These principles will make you more effective in serving others and making sure that they have a positive experience with you and your business.

Book Review: Reformational Manhood by Greg Gibson

Reformational Manhood

In Reformational Manhood, Greg Gibson presents a call to young men step into the God-given role that He has called them to embrace.  This book is a challenge for men to be defined by the Word of God rather that what culture makes men to be.  Gibson points out that a cultural view of manhood is depicted in media like the TV show Two and a Half Men.  The picture given by the media is that men are to be lazy, addicted to sex, and selfish.  The biblical view of men as a leader, a provider, and a warrior stands in stark contrast to the cultural view of manhood.

Reformational Manhood seeks to address the topics of: courage, the gospel, marriage, being a leader, being a provider, being a warrior, making decisions, and redeeming your time.  These are all topics that are important to address because they are all areas in which many men fail.  These topics are all addressed through a strong biblical and theological lens.  Gibson does an effective job of handling the texts of scripture and constantly drives his readers to evaluate the truth of the text in determining the proper approach to the topic.

Gibson takes a very gospel-centered approach to the topic of biblical manhood.  He is not into writing a book full of boxes to check off in order to become a better man.  Gibson realizes the truth that we are all imperfect man trying to follow the perfect man – Jesus.  Christ is seen as the hero of the book and is presented as the only truly perfect man.

Reformational Manhood is a concise but clear book that addresses the topics of manhood from a biblical and gospel-centered perspective.  It is a quick read that is packed with biblical truth.  Gibson’s call for men to become everything God created them to be is a needed reminder that points men back to their need for Jesus to transform them so they can transform the world around them.

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Book Review: The Grace Effect by Larry Taunton

Grace Effect

In The Grace Effect, apologist Larry Taunton effective weaves together a Christian apologetic with the story of his family’s adoption of their daughter, Sasha, from the Ukraine.  The book is framed in the context of on-going conversations between Taunton and famed atheist Christopher Hitchens.  Through Taunton’s work as the director of a foundation focused on the advancement of the Christian faith, he has developed a close friendship with Hitchens, which is an odd friendship because they believe in two fundamentally oppositional worldviews.

As an apologist, Taunton is constantly seeking arguments to present for the compelling nature of the gospel.  As he travelled through the process of adopting his daughter, Taunton discovered that the lack of grace in a culture, which comes fundamentally from the Christian worldview, causes a culture to decline and become a place of no hope.  The removal of the gospel from a culture deprives that very culture of hope, meaning, and vitality.

The Grace Effect is a compelling story of how Taunton’s presupposition came to life through his real life experiences as an adoptive father in the Ukraine.  The Ukraine is a country that has personified the atheistic worldview that Christopher Hitchens supports.  As Taunton walks the streets of the country, he sees the dark results of Hitchen’s worldview played out in the lives of real people.  He is reminded once again of the power of the gospel and the Christian worldview to truly be a place of hope and healing for people and culture.

The book ends with Hitchens meeting Sasha.  The child who has experienced extravagant grace through the gospel being displayed in the life of the Taunton family comes face to face with the atheist who promotes the cultural philosophy that negatively defined so much of the child’s life.  As they meet, Hitchens is amazed by the child who overcame and saw that there must be something different about her.  Though Hitchens remains in his worldview, the story of The Grace Effect made him come face to face with a real life apologetic of the power of the gospel.

The Grace Effect is an engaging book that weaves together theology, philosophy, history, and real life experiences into a page-turning story.  Taunton truly presents a real life apologetic, through his daughter, and reminds his readers once again of the power of grace.

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