Archives For Book Reviews

Do you have “Christian Fatigue Syndrome?”

Are you tired of helping other people enjoy God while wondering if you’ll ever enjoy him again?

Do you feel like you’re on a spiritual treadmill?

Does God feel academic, cognitive and sterile rather than personal, intimate and close?

(I would have said yes to all of these things in January 2015)

Read these 4 books.  I hope and pray they have the same impact on your life and relationship with God that they have had on mine:  (The two Nouwen books take less than 2 hours to read)

 

 

 

 

 

the way of the heart

What does the Bible say about insecurity?

Failure, Insecurity as a Striving Pastor & Finding My Soul in Jesus

Much of my 10 years as a church planter have been riddled with anxiety, performance and self-striving.  When I started out in 2005, I envisioned leading thousands of people to Jesus…for Jesus’ glory of course.

The church planting textbooks and the pressures of a church planting network told me that after our 9 month prepatory stage, we should have around 150 people on our first public Sunday, with week 2 taking a dip down to around 80, then it should build up from there, hitting a steady 150-200 within the first two years or so.

We had 50 people our first Sunday.  I unconsciously lied and told my support team we had 90.  I told them I didn’t count (only people with ego problems count, I told myself).  But I estimated 90.

We had 18 people our second Sunday.

So we had 18 people our second Sunday.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

You get the idea.  Oh and I am counting myself of course.

It’s hard not to count when there are 18 (17) people in a room.

What is 18 (17) people to a church planter?

It is failure.  Continue Reading…

Ken Wytsma’s most recent book The Grand Paradox, addresses many of the tensions believers and non-believers feel toward the Christian faith.

Ken is founder of The Justice Conference coming up June 5-6 in Chicago and is also the author of Pursuing Justice.

Tensions within the Bible and Christianity abound.  Many of these tensions push people away from faith.  Ken argues they should push us toward it.

Ken argues that if doubt is like thirst in the desert, faith is its water.

This sounds catchy for a pastor to say, but how can this be true when people’s doubts deal with such deep topics as personal pain, suffering in the world, brutality in the Old Testament, and so on?  The answer will change your faith and your life. Continue Reading…

I don’t like fiction books because they make me feel stupider and like I’ve crumpled up my time into a ball and tossed into the garbage can.  You made up a story, great.  Does it say anything?  Does it make me think?  Does it move me?

My two favorite fiction book series of all time are C.S. LewisChronicles of Narnia series and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.  Entertaining and attention grabbing, but extremely deep.  Extremely symbolic.  Extremely moving.  Once I finished these two series, I honestly have not been able to read another fiction book.  Everything I pick up either bores me or makes me stupider, both reasons to put a book down for good.

I recently read Zachary Bartels’ novel Playing Saint and I loved it.  I don’t want to give away the plot but what I loved about the book is that yes, while it was a gripping page turner that you’d expect in a good novel, it was also filled with witty humor and deep meaning, meaning about who I am as a pastor and a Christian.  “Christian” and “novel” are typically a combo you want to stay away from, another refreshing change-up found in Playing Saint.  Bartels proves you can be excellent at the art of writing while not having to fill your pages with F-bombs and lewd sex scenes, something very refreshing indeed.  And thank heavens “Christian novel” also doesn’t equate to “salvation tract” or “predictable and cheesy” with Bartels, traits that almost always accompany anything Christian nowadays.  Playing Saint is a refreshing mix of ingredients you frankly don’t expect to find anywhere: funny, action-packed, deep, Christian, raw and brutally honest.  This is a pioneer book and piece of art that is well worth your read and something the world and Christianity needs more of.

If you’re looking for a good read or a good gift, grab a copy of Playing Saint and I promise you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, it’s likely you’ll end up feeling like Tracy Groot did about it:

 

Playing-Saint-Zachary-Bartels

Playing-Saint-Zachary-Bartels

 

I just finished reading Finding God in the Dark by Ted Kluck & Ronnie Martin, and it was very well timed.  The thing about the book that strikes you right off the bat, as well as what I appreciate most about it, is its raw honesty about the realities of life.  I blog quite a bit about my depression and insecurities.  I sometimes feel like there are two kinds of people, especially as it relates to being in vocational ministry: those who struggles with discouragement, depression, and insecurity, and those who lie.  Continue Reading…