Archives For Book of the Month

This entry is part 21 of 22 in the seriesBook of the Month

Discipleship is an essential function of the church. It’s the mission that Jesus left us with when He raised from the dead and ascended to the Father: “Go into all the world and make disciples.” As disciples of Jesus, an important part of our job description is being disciple-makers.

But discipleship is a weak spot in many churches today. We all know that we’re called to make disciples, but we often feel paralyzed because we don’t know exactly what that ought to look like. We don’t know where to begin.

MultiplyTo address this problem, I have been working together with our Founder, Francis Chan, and David Platt to produce disciple-making material that anyone anywhere can use for free. It’s called Multiply. Basically, the material is designed for ordinary Christians who want to help other people follow Jesus. It consists of six parts: Living as a Disciple Maker, Living as the Church, How to Study the Bible, Understanding the Old Testament, Understanding the New Testament, Helping People Change.

We believe that this type of material will help the church better fulfill its mission by equipping Christians to come together, study God’s word, and effectively minister to the hurting people around them (and around the world). The best part is, the whole thing is free. It’s meant to be passed on, linked to, and used in any way that will strengthen the local church.

You can access the Multiply material here: multiplymovement.com.

Update: Since I first posted this, Multiply has been published in book form. You can still access all of the material for free using the link above (you can also watch videos of Francis Chan and David Platt discussing the material), or you can order it in book form here (many people don’t like to read books on their computer screens). 

 

This entry is part 1 of 22 in the seriesBook of the Month

At the request of one of our graduates, we are going to begin featuring a (not necessarily monthly) Book of the Month. Kelsey (the graduate) mentioned that she gained so much through her studies at Eternity, but now that she has graduated—and therefore is not being forced to read books—she is not in the loop on which books might be worth reading. I’m sure that many of you are in a similar boat. There are so many books out there, how do you choose which books you will read?

Hopefully you don’t trust us enough to be the lone voice in telling you what you should read, but our hope is that this feature will turn your attention to some books that we have found worthwhile, and maybe you will to. I don’t think I have ever read a book that I agreed with 100% (I feel compelled to add, “except for the Bible,” because I know some Bible college students are reading), so please don’t take these recommendations as affirmations of every detail of every book. We simply find these books helpful and think you might as well.

So our first ever Book of the Month is You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions
by Tim Chester. This book recently became required reading for our Discipleship and Counseling class. Chester is a trusted voice for us, and his book Total Church, co-authored by Steve Timmis, is also a must-read.

The title of the book sounds a touch self-helpish, and in a sense, that’s exactly what it is. But the key difference between your average Joel Osteen become a better you type of book and You Can Change is that Chester is incessantly gospel-focused. Addressing the sin issues in our lives is not about techniques, self-imposed disciplined, or therapy that only a highly trained professional can administer. It’s about the gospel:

“We become Christians by faith in Jesus, we stay Christians by faith in Jesus, and we grow as Christians by faith in Jesus…It’s not just that trying to live by laws and disciplines is useless—it’s a backwards step. It’s a step back into slavery, which ends up undermining grace and hope (Galatians 4:8-11; 5:1-5).”

Chester stays focused on the gospel as God’s power to free us from the sin that enslaves us. You Can Change is intensely practical, teaching us to identify the sin in our lives; assess it’s affects on our thoughts, lifestyle, and relationships; and pursue God’s power through the gospel and the Spirit of God to free us up to glorify God in these areas. Chester places our issues within a theological framework so that we can see how our sin relates to God, but he does so in terms that are very simple, easy to understand, and easy to follow.

So who would I recommend this book to? Well, if you struggle with sin, this book is meant for you. A book on its own won’t be a magic bullet to solve your problems, but if you approach this book thoughtfully and use it a means to draw closer to God in these areas of your life, I don’t doubt that it could have a huge impact on you. But this book is also very helpful for those who want to help other people think through their problems. Whether you are a professional counselor or just someone who cares about other people, You Can Change will help to prepare you to minister to the people around you.

I recently did a series of posts on sanctification, and I used some of Chester’s thoughts throughout. If you don’t want to read a whole book, you can pick up some of his insights in these posts:

If you’re interested in buying the book, here’s a quick link:

This entry is part 2 of 22 in the seriesBook of the Month

I mentioned before that our book of the month feature wasn’t necessarily going to be a monthly feature. I wasn’t lying. We’ll just post about great books we’ve read whenever we feel like passing them on to you.

This “month” I want to recommend When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. You might think that this book is only directed at people who are ambitiously trying to end world hunger, but the reality is that this book is a must read for every Christian. If you’ve ever gone on a short term mission trip, this book is for you. If you’ve ever donated money to a ministry that reaches out to the underprivileged, this book is for you. If you’ve ever felt any degree of compassion for those who are suffering…well, you guessed it.

Though North American Christians often try to live as though there were no major problems in the world, poverty is a huge problem, both overseas and in our own neighborhoods. Corbett and Fikkert convincingly argue that very often, our efforts to help those who are impoverished show our ignorance regarding the issues involved and the solutions that would truly help these people. Because of this, our efforts to help often hurt both ourselves and the poor people we are reaching out to. We hurt the people we are trying to help by making them dependent on us financially, making them feel inadequate or dehumanized, and/or removing any opportunity they have to work towards a solution to their own problems. We hurt ourselves by fostering our pride and sense of superiority when we swoop in like superman to save the day.

Their book explores the nature of poverty, the problems and systems that cause it, and the right way to think about help those who are hurting. This doesn’t mean that we leave the materially poor to solve their own problems. It means that we get actively involved in correctly diagnosing the situation and offering solutions that include the impoverished in their own relief.

I’ll highlight three profound observations that Corbett and Fikker offer, observations which have completely changed the way I think about helping those who are hurting.

The first observation is that an “asset-based” approach to addressing poverty is better than a “needs-based” approach. In a needs-based approach, we go to the affected person or area, figure out what they need, then provide it, donate it, or build it. In an asset-based approach, however, we start by finding out what the affected community has to offer. What skills, knowledge, and systems do they bring to the table that can help them address the crisis using their own resources? This is an infinitely better approach because in addition to solving the immediate problem, it also gives those who are hurting affirmation and ownership over their ability to do what needs to be done.

The second observation is an insightful distinction that Corbett and Fikkert make between relief, rehabilitation, development. We tend to think of poverty as poverty, so we respond to it all the same. But they argue that not all poverty is created equal. Some situations (such as the aftermath of hurricane Katrina) require relief. Something needs to be done immediately, and often it will entail providing money, counseling, and building materials. Rehabilitation comes when the initial crisis is over, but the community needs to rebuild to get back to where they were before. Development comes when the infrastructure of a country needs long term work to improve the overall quality of life. The problem is that North Americans tend to treat all poverty through relief strategies, and providing this type of aid typically cripples rehabilitation and development.

The final observation comes through the way they define poverty. Material poverty is what usually comes to mind when we hear about poverty, but Corbett and Fikkert identify poverty in four fundamental relationships: with God, with our fellow man, with ourselves, and with the rest of creation. When these relationships are not working properly, we are impoverished. For this reason, middle to upper class North Americans are some of the most impoverished people on the planet. Often a poverty of relationship leads to material poverty, but the most important issue to address is the poverty of relationship.

If you choose to read this book, I can pretty much guarantee that it will be a game changer in terms of the way you view poverty alleviation, short term mission trips, and the nature of poverty itself.

Buy it through our Amazon store:

This entry is part 3 of 22 in the seriesBook of the Month

David Platt is best known for his book Radical. If you’ve read it, you know it’s incredibly hard-hitting, convicting, challenging, and inspiring. Even if you don’t like everything he says or the way he says it, I can’t imagine anyone reading that book without becoming more committed to Christ.

But I actually like his second book better. Radical Together takes the challenge to live a life that is completely submitted to God’s will (this is the idea in Radical) and places it within its proper context: the church.

As important as it is that each of us lives a life of radical obedience, it is actually impossible for us to live the kind of life that God calls us to live apart from the church. Platt explains:

“As long as individual Christians journey alone—no matter how ‘radical’ they are—their effect will be minimal. But as men and women who are surrendered to the person of Christ join together in churches that are committed to the purpose of Christ, then nothing can stop the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

Christians living in the western world have grown accustomed to individualism. “My faith is a private matter. It’s just me and God and nothing else matters. I don’t need religion, I have a personal relationship with God.” There are shades of truth in each of these statements, but there are lies mixed in as well. I would say that our individualized approach to faith reflects more of the American myth of the self-made man pulling himself up by his own bootstraps than it reflects the biblical approach to spirituality.

Like it or not, God has saved us into a body. He died to join us with other Christians so that we can pursue his mission together. Read Ephesians 2:11-22.

In any case, this is the emphasis of Radical Together. We simply cannot fulfill our God-given mission as individuals. The church is God’s plan for transforming the world, and God has no plan B.

Radical Together will certainly be challenging, and you probably won’t like everything you read. But if you want to get serious about joining with the other Christians that God has placed around you in order to fulfill God’s purposes in your area and around the world, I would highly recommend reading it. You should be able to work through the book pretty quickly (it’s very short), but it will give you a lot to chew on.

 

This entry is part 4 of 22 in the seriesBook of the Month

Our “Book of the Month” feature (which, by the way, is not a monthly installment) allows us to highlight books that we have appreciated and that we feel may be beneficial for you as well.

This “month” I want to share one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read: The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. If you want to get a sense of the story and purpose of the whole Bible, then this book is essential. It’s not exactly an easy read, but I (and many of my colleagues and students) found that it does an excellent job of pulling out the major themes of Scripture and tracing the biblical storyline.

This book is unique because it was written as a team effort between a biblical scholar and a missiologist. So not only is it biblically grounded and well researched, it is also intensely practical.

As the subtitle suggests, the purpose of the book is to help us find our place in the biblical story. Not only is the Bible a story in the best sense of that term, it’s also a true story. And it’s a story in which we are called to play a part.

My favorite part of the book is an illustration they adapt from N. T. Wright. In this illustration, a group of actors finds a six-act play. The first four acts are entirely intact:

  • Act I – God Establishes His Kingdom: Creation
  • Act II – Rebellion in the Kingdom: Fall
  • Act III – The King Chooses Israel: Redemption Initiated
  • Act IV – The Coming of the King: Redemption Accomplished

 

The first half of the fifth act is intact, but the second half of the act is missing:

  • Act V – Spreading the News of the Kingdom: The Mission of the Church

 

And the sixth act is entirely intact:

  • Act VI – The Return of the King: Redemption Completed

 

So this group of actors knows how most of the story goes, and they know the trajectory of Act V because they see how that act begins, and they know how the play ends in Act VI. As they act out the second half of Act V, they will need to improvise (they don’t have a precise script), but they are able to do this effectively because they see where the story has been, where it is headed, and how all the loose ends get tied together in the ending.

Do you see where this is going?

As we read the biblical storyline, we see what God is doing in this world, what has gone wrong, and what he has been doing to set everything to rights. We see how Act V began (with the early church in the New Testament), and we see how the world will end. The part that we are called to play is the second half of Act V. We don’t have an exact script for this, so we will have to improvise. We would be foolish to simply repeat portions of the script from earlier in the play (precisely imitating the book of Acts, for example). Instead, we continue to carry the story forward, playing our roles to keep the story moving toward its appointed end.

A book like this is no substitute for reading the Bible, but I’m confident that you will find it helpful in understanding what the Bible is saying as a whole. The Drama of Scripture will help you understand what the prophets are all about, for example, or why the book of Revelation was written. As I said, it’s one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it as well.

 

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