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: 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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Just Give Me Jesus

As I walked the streets of Cuenca, Ecuador today, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. Since I have a type A personality, I enjoy being in charge, making a game plan, and watching the game plan unfold, but today God determined that His game plan was better than mine.

Our team was on a limited timeframe, and we were walking to have a follow up discipleship meeting with a new believer. This enthusiastic man approaches me and grabs my hand. I was kind of concerned about random people running up to me because I was approached by a very intoxicated man yesterday. The drunk man grabbed my hand, told me I had beautiful eyes, and other things that I could not determine through my translators laughter. But today, the man was not a drunkard, but he was a seeker sent by God.

As the man grabbed my hand, he asked my translator if I was a pastor from the States. He then asked us to go to his sister’s store to share Jesus with him and his family. I have been on numerous mission trips and things like this don’t normally happen. Once we arrived at the store, I shared with the family the gospel message, and they all came to believe. The enthusiastic man then joined our Bible study this evening. He is excited about the gospel and is seeking to make disciples of people in his community.

Today, I was reminded that God is the One who really gets to determine the game plan, and that even though I sometimes struggle to understand the upcoming plays, He is working out all things for His glory and my good. I was also reminded that people don’t need church buildings, materials, programs, and training to come to know the life changing power of the gospel – the call of the man is the call of the lost everywhere – “Just give me Jesus!”

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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 Grace Effect by Larry Taunton

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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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Book Review Friday: The Gospel According to Isaiah 53

The Gospel According to Isaiah 53Open Link in New Window is an intensely academic book presenting arguments for Jesus’ Messiahship from Isaiah 53Open Link in New Window.  Unlike many other academic books, this is written with the clear intent and purpose of preparing a theological apologetic for Christians to use when witnessing to Jewish people who are still looking for the Messiah.

This book is edited by a New Testament scholar, Dr. Darrell Bock, and the president of Chosen People Ministries, Dr. Mitch Glaser.  These editors bring together theology with practicality ans have selected excellent scholars to write compelling essays exploring Isaiah 53Open Link in New Window.  This book explores Christian and Jewish interpretations of the text, the role of Isaiah 53Open Link in New Window in Biblical Theology, and the role of Isaiah 53Open Link in New Window in Practical Theology.

The Gospel According to Isaiah 53Open Link in New Window is a challenging collection of essays that seek to bring a theological apologetic to Jewish people who have yet to comprehend the truth that Jesus is the Messiah.

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