2015: Good Reads

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Way back in January I made a pact with myself to aim for quality rather than quantity when it came to the books I would read in 2015. I should have done that several years ago. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of my three favorite reads from 2015.

(Note: this list is not exclusive to books released in 2015.)

The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges

christianministryThis might be the most practical and relevant book on ministry that I’ve read to date—what’s impressive is that it was published in 1830. Just goes to show you that there really is nothing new under the sun. It was also refreshing to read a book on ministry/leadership that couldn’t possibly push any sort of modern agenda.

The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler

minglingofsoulsConfession: I may have a slight man-crush on Matt Chandler. However, I think I can relatively objectively say this is a special book. What makes Mingling of Souls great is that it biblically addresses the full spectrum of love—from initial attraction all the way to the well-worn marriage–where as most books on “love” simply begin on the wedding day.

On Writing by Stephen King

onwritingI’ve heard several writers recommend this book on various podcasts, so when I found it for about $3 in a used book store, it was a no-brainer. This wannabe writer couldn’t put it down. King’s biography combined with his practical tips for writing make this a must read for anyone that wants to be a writer someday. (Warning: book contains some “flavorful” language.)

A Liberating Truth (Under the Sun)

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Anybody remember the band 311? For the 3 of you that do, you might remember their song “Come Original”. I have no idea what the basis of the song was (because, you know, songs always have these strange underlying meanings, especially when you play the album backwards), but I have felt the pressure to “come original” quite often.

As a student pastor, I feel the pressure of trying to come up with creative ways of communicating truth that has been around for thousands of years. That’s the reason I probably spend more time preparing teaching content than any other one aspect of my job. As a wannabe blogger/writer, I feel the tension in trying to churn out content that is new, innovative, or somehow original. That’s the reason I don’t blog very much.

More often than not, I feel like I don’t have anything new to offer.

Then comes this reminder from one of the wisest men to ever live:

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

It’s true, isn’t it? Anyone who has seen their wardrobe cycle out of style and back in style knows this. But if we’ll just stop for a second, there’s a great freedom here.

  • Pastors, you don’t have to try to preach the Christmas story from some new, innovative angle this year
  • Moms, you don’t have to compete with the creativity found on the boards of the profession Pinterest moms.
  • Jonas, you don’t have to wait until you have the illusion of an original idea or thought before you write.

There is nothing new under the sun–and that is a liberating truth.

What I’ve Learned in Three Years of Ministry

This weekend marks my third year in full-time vocational ministry. Fully acknowledging that I’m still a ministry newbie, here’s a few things I’ve learned thus far:

Nothing prepares you for ministry.

In seminary I learned about finding Jesus in the Old Testament. I learned about church history and how denominations were established. I learned about multiple methods for crafting a sermon. What I did not learn in seminary was how time consuming ministry can be for a family. I did not learn what to say to a student whose parents had kicked them out of the house. I did not learn what to do when you get a call on your day off informing you that a parent had committed suicide. I’m not dismissing seminary—I gained valuable knowledge during my formal ministry training, but having a seminary degree doesn’t mean you’re prepared for ministry (like I naively thought it would).

People > Programs

I’m still figuring this out. It’s my biggest struggle in ministry. I am naturally drawn to content, creativity, methodologies, mission statements, systems, etc. I think it’s a mixture of a semi-creative mind and a business school background, though I’m not completely sure. To be certain, I think those things are really important—content matters, our creativity is a reflection of God’s creativity, systems are necessary—but those things are secondary. Jesus didn’t die for a teaching series, slick visual graphics, or the aesthetics of a building—Jesus died for people. I am constantly having to ask God to reorient my focus to the people He loves and died for.

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Despite the ups, the downs, the complaints, the frustrations, the wins, the losses, the mistakes, the feelings of inadequacy, the early mornings and the late nights, I can’t imagine doing anything other than ministry. My hope and prayer is that by God’s grace I’ll have a long and fruitful tenure in full-time vocational ministry. I can’t imagine doing anything else.