thinking out loud

…things that are on my mind, heart, and soul

Interesting Writing – Faulty Foundation

Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny is the latest release from Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC. I am a pretty big fan of Batterson’s past works and have used his Wild Goose Chase for a men’s group study (I find Batterson’s writing resonates especially well with guys).

Batterson is an excellent writer/story-teller and having had the opportunity to hear him speak in person, I actually feel he is a better writer than speaker. He knows how to craft interesting (and sound-byte like) sentences and fills the page with compelling stories lifted from art, music, sports, psychology, yesterday’s headlines and his experience as a local church pastor. One of the things I appreciate about Mark is that he writes his books first and after they are published he preaches them to his congregation. This is a different approach from many pastors/authors who preach first and then transcribe later.

Batterson describes Soulprint as a self-discovery book and takes his readers through an exploration of the life of David. His goal is to help readers discover their unique God-given identity and destiny. The book is filled with a significant amount of Scripture and contains plenty of truth and inspiration. That said, I have one major problem with the book – I disagree with Batterson’s basic premise For example:

  • “So the key to fulfilling your future destiny is hidden in your past memories”(6).
  • “David saw the person God had destined him to become: a giant killer. That was his true identity. That was his true destiny” (8).
  • “The only thing between you and your destiny is awkwardness” (113).

I don’t believe that these are true statements nor do they hold up against solid biblical thought, study and reflection. If you are looking for a solid biblical exploration of the life of David, let me recommend two classic works: Eugene Peterson’s, Leap Over a Wall” or Chuck Swindoll’s,”David.”

I have to confess that books with the word, “destiny” in the title make me feel uneasy.  While Soulprint is a well-written and interesting book to read, regrettably, because it is based upon some faulty theology, it ultimately falls short and misses the mark in my estimation.

(I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

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Filed under: books, reviews

The Next Christians: An Important But Incomplete Work

Gabe Lyons’ new book, The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith” is an important, yet incomplete read. Let me begin with the important aspects to his work.

I was encouraged to discover that early in the book, Lyons’ challenges the typical evangelical view of America as a Christian nation. He writes, “our nation’s founders were influenced by Christians ideas, but they were also wise enough to structure America to allow for a pluralistic setting – a place where all faiths could be practiced and no faith would be given the upper hand”(22). And while the Church no longer holds a central place in the marketplace of ideas in our culture (at least among the younger generations), Lyons is hopeful that this is not a time to be discouraged, but instead a season to be encouraged by what God is doing in this new movement of the next Christians.

In chapter three, Lyons shares the fruit of a conversation he had with a Hollywood producer who had called upon Gabe to share his perspective on potential strategies for filmmakers to reach Christians. Lyons categorized believers into two groups based upon their interaction with culture identifying the groups as the Separates (insiders, cultural warriors and evangelizers) and the Culturals (blenders and philanthropers). Lyons goes on to present a third way (reflective of Jim Belcher’s approach in his book, Deep Church) to live out the reality of the Gospel in today’s world and this makes us the bulk of the book. This third way, which is reflective of the next Christians, is defined as the way of restoration. The posture of restoration involves having the full story of the Gospel in our minds and hearts – the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. The next Christians embrace this in its fullness.

Lyons identifies six characteristics of the restorers and devotes a chapter to each of these movements: provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; and countercultural, not relevant. The chapters are filled with inspiring and hopeful stories of people who are living out their faith in real-time as restorers. These stories are one of the highlights of the book.

This is an important read for people seeking to influence our world toward the kingdom realities of Jesus Christ.  Ministry leaders would be wise to gather some key people together and begin to engage in dialogue over Lyons’ premise and perspective. As well, Lyons includes a study guide that connects material from Q Notes with each chapter. This supplemental material is captured from the Q conference that Lyons facilitates and includes video messages from important thinkers (Scot McKnight, Andy Crouch, Ambassador Max Kampelman and others) in the various channels of cultural influence, as well as a number of commissioned essays by people like Tim Keller, Matthew Sleeth and Josh Jackson and Nick Purdy from Paste magazine.

While this is an important read, I also feel it is incomplete. My biggest critique is that Lyons identifies the next wave of Christianity by the individual actions of highly committed and passionate followers of Jesus. While I applaud their faithful efforts, as I read their stories I keep asking myself, “where is the Church?” The only substantive illustration of the next Christians that involves the church is Lyons’ discussion of what God is doing through the church in the city of Portland. In the last chapter, “The Next Big Shift,” Lyons also makes a minor reference to the church-planting movement that has swept the next Christians, but overall I keep coming back to the question, “what kinds of churches will help shape and nurture the next Christians?” Perhaps Lyons will have more to say about this in the future. Or even better, perhaps we need to engage in this conversation and create the kinds of churches that will model the third way of restoration.

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BTW: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Filed under: books, leadership, Q, reviews

2010 Reading List

Here it is – my reading list for the new year. No promises that I will read every one of these from cover to cover, but these are the books God has dropped onto my radar for this next season.

Any thoughts on these texts? And what will you be reading in the year ahead?

  • The Presentation Secrets of Steven Jobs, Carmin Gallo
  • Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Heath
  • Relational Intelligence, Steve Saccone
  • Choosing to Preach, Kenton Anderson
  • Outlivers, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Stones into Schools, Greg Mortonson
  • The Boundary Breaking God, Danielle Shroyer
  • The Good and Beautiful God, James Smith
  • The Teaching of the Twelve, Tony Jones
  • Warrior Princess, Princess Kasune Zulu and Belinda A. Collins
  • The Three Tasks of Leadership: Worldly Wisdom for Pastoral Leaders, Eric O. Jacobsen
  • Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller
  • Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture, Makoto Fujimura

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Filed under: books, leadership

about me

my name is terry and i've been married to a great woman, patty for 29 years and we have four children, (ranging from 17-25) and an awesome grandson. i serve as lead pastor of christ community church of the south hills in pittsburgh, pa (lets go pens!). i am currently working on a book on worship with a working title of "a movable feast: a liturgy for our everyday, ordinary lives."