Category Archives: books

10 Books that Influenced the way I think in 2018

This isn’t the list of the best books I read in 2018, but the books that challenged or influenced the way I think. Even if I didn’t agree with all of their conclusions, they stimulated my thinking. I could tell these books were influential for me if I brought them up in conversation, went over their contents more than once, or actually changed the way I lived.

10. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams: Life without God is absurd, and this is the world of Douglas Adams. This book is bit like a humorous version of Ecclesiastes, except that Adams doesn’t recognize the irony of it all.

9. Five Views of the Church and Politics (IVP): This book provided me with key paradigms to understanding how different traditions have understood the relationship between church and politics.

8. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission by Christopher Wright: This book, along with the podcasts being published by The Bible Project, have given me a deeper understanding of how the Bible fits together as a whole.

7. American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900 by H.W. Brands:It helps to see things in historical perspective. Class warfare and political corruption are nothing new. We’ll get through this (well, probably).

6. Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age by Alan Noble: Noble invites us to examine the ways in which our message, and the way we share it, can help people understand the gospel.

5. The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker: You won’t see food in the same way again. Also, I think the quote “The chicken situation is dire!” will stick in my head for a while.

4. Small Church Essentials by Karl Vaters: Big churches and small churches are different, and that’s Ok. This book made me more critical of advice given specifically with big churches in mind, and more comfortable with my own small church.

3. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig:This book gave me some great tools for apologetics and strengthened my faith.

2. American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales: Nancy Jo Sales effectively shows the dangers of social media, especially for girls, and the corrosive effects of porn and hook-up culture.

1. Becoming a Welcome Church By Thom Rainer: This book didn’t only change the way I think, but it drove me to pursue a few specific changes in our church.

Advertisements

How to use What does it Mean to be a Christian? in Discipleship

I remember teaching the story of Joseph at a church-based after school program for Junior and Senior High students. When I told them that his brothers sold him into slavery, many of them were genuinely surprised. For them, the story was new and exciting. For me, it was a wake-up call that I could not assume these student would have a basic understand of Christianity I so often took for granted.

What the students thought they knew of Christianity was often skewed, or so incomplete to be unhelpful. They didn’t know how to connect the dots between the gospel and the Christian life, and many had no connection to a local church, or any understanding of why it would be at all important.

In this, and other ministry contexts, I began to see the need to have a ready outline of the Christian faith, something that would present the gospel and the call of salvation clearly, without a lot of religious jargon, that would connect salvation to the life of the Christian and the life of the church. I wrote What Does it Mean to be a Christian? as an attempt to draw out such an outline. It’s an outline, not exhaustive, but complete enough for new and deeper information to be incorporated into the unified cloth of the faith.

In my church context, I have used the content of this book in two specific ways:

  • Introduce teenagers with limited knowledge of Christianity to the basics of the faith
  • Prepare adults to take the step of believer’s baptism

What Does it Mean to Be a Christian? is split into three parts, and outlines the following topics:

Part 1: Salvation

  • The unified story of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Rescue, Completion
  • The character of God: His Divine and Moral attributes
  • Mankind: Made in the image of God, yet slaves to sin, and in need of God’s rescue
  • Salvation: The gift of God and the call to repentance

Part 2: The Christian Life

  • New life in Jesus through the Spirit: Freedom from sin, freedom to serve
  • The greatest commandment: Love God and love neighbor
  • The Spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, Prayer, Church attendance
  • Embracing the “weirdness” of Christianity, being salt and light

Part 3: The church

  • The nature of the Church: An outline of the theology of the church
  • Baptism and Communion: Essential symbols for a distinctive community
  • The relationship between the Church and the World
  • A call to participate in a local, Bible believing, church

How a ministry leader could use What Does it Mean to Be a Christian?

  • Form an outline for further curriculum development
  • Supplemental reading material for classes giving the basics of the Christian faith
  • A resource to provide to those curious about Christianity
  • A resource for new believers to grow in their faith
  • Preparatory reading for teenagers and adults preparing for baptism

Two more essential notes for ministry leaders:

  • What Does it Mean to Be a Christian? addresses sexuality when discussing the Christian life. It is in no way explicit, but it is probably not appropriate for younger kids.
  • If you’re a ministry leader interested in using this book and have questions, or want to know about a group rate, email me at steve@wpbiblefellowship.org. I would be happy to provide copies of this book at cost ($2.15/book + shipping) to anyone using it in a ministry context.

Available on Amazon

(Paperback) (Kindle)