THE TEN – Highly Anticipated New Books for the Fall

nextNext:  Pastoral Succession that Works by William Vanderbloemen and Warrren Bird – 09/02/14
I am reading this new book with rapt attention as our church just announced that our senior pastor is beginning a three year succession plan. He is the founder of our church and it is hard to imagine our church without him at the helm. This book could not be more timely for me. As many senior pastors from the baby boomer generation are now reaching retirement age, this book will be helpful to many other churches as well. The authors hint at what is to come in their very helpful preface when they state, “Every Pastor is an Interim Pastor. Few Ministers consider that truth. Few are eager to admit that their time with their present church will one day end. But ultimately all pastors are “interim” because the day when a successor takes over will come for everyone in ministry.” While there is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to the puzzle of planning for a seamless pastoral succession, Next offers church leaders and pastors a guide to asking the right questions in order to plan for the future.
vanishingVanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News by Philip Yancey – 10/31/14
I was fortunate enough to have been able to get an advance reader copy of this book at the International Christian Retail Show in June and could not put it down. Yancey is one of my favorite authors and he does not disappoint in this highly readable new book. Yancey aims this book at Christian readers, showing them how Christians have lost respect, influence, and reputation in a newly post-Christian culture. “Why do they hate us so much?” mystified Americans ask about the rest of the world. A similar question applies to evangelicals in America. Yancey explores what may have contributed to hostility toward Evangelicals, especially in their mixing of faith and politics instead of embracing more grace-filled ways of presenting the gospel. He offers illuminating stories of how faith can be expressed in ways that disarm even the most cynical critics. Then he explores what is Good News and what is worth preserving in a culture that thinks it has rejected Christian faith. This is a book that every Christian who is interested in engaging the culture should read.

Somewhere safeSomewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon – 09/02/14
So I have never been a big reader of Christian fiction, but I loved the Mitford Series and this book is the latest installment. In this new book, after five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors. While glad to be at home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he’s offered one, he decides he doesn’t want it. Maybe he’s lost his passion. His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion—for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner, and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley’s brother, Sammy, still enraged by his mother’s abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim’s prized possessions. Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business. All this as Wanda’s Feel Good Café opens, a romance catches fire through an Internet word game, their former mayor hatches a reelection campaign to throw the bums out, and the weekly Muse poses a probing inquiry: Does Mitford still take care of its own?

prayerPrayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller – 11/04/14
With over a million copies of his books having been sold now in just the last ten years, Tim is one of the most important evangelical writers of our time and one of my favorite authors. Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. Few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Tim Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader. I have a feeling that this will be a book that will stand the test of time and will become a “go to” resource on this timeless and vital subject. Prayer has always been the basis for growth and revival in the church and I am hopeful that this book will spark a new fire in an American church that needs revival today.

david wilkersonDavid Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed by Gary Wilkerson 09/02/14
The story of the small town pastor from Pennsylvania moving to New York City to minister to gang members in the late 1950’s was first told in the best-selling book, The Cross and the Switchblade. That book, the comic book based on it and the movie that was made from it greatly impacted a generation of evangelicals including me. This new book is a definitive biography of David Wilkerson told through the eyes of his son Gary. After the initial publicity that brought him face to face with some of the most dangerous young men of the city, he largely flew under the radar of the media, using the Word of God and a bit of tough love to help men and women of the street escape the destructive spiral of drugs and violence. Wilkerson later founded the Times Square Church, now a non-denominational mega-church of 8,000 members, to this day a crossroads for those battling sin, drugs, and pornography, and a place where the message of Christ is discussed. He created the faith-based program Teen Challenge to wean addicts off drugs, and then World Challenge, dedicated since its beginning to promoting and spreading the Gospel throughout the world. David Wilkerson was the preacher of New York City.

pastors kidThe Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity by Barnabas Piper – 07/01/14
As a missionary kid myself I was interested in this book from the moment that I heard it was coming out this year. Barnabus is the son of renowned pastor and author John Piper and grew up in the fishbowl of public scrutiny that is common for most pastor’s kids. In this book we learn that Dad may be following God’s call, but the Pastor’s kids (PKs) are just following mom and dad, often to devastating results. With empathy, humor, and personal stories, he addresses the pervasive assumptions, identity issues and accelerated scrutiny PKs face. But more than just stating the problems – he shares the one thing a PK needs above all else (as do their pastor/father and church) is to live in true freedom and wholeness. One reviewer of this book said, “The tragic celebrity culture that shrouds pastors and their families is a bit like applauding the tallest miniature horse. God is supposed to be the only one we make much of, not the pastor or his children. And yet our need for idols has placed a crushing weight on PKs so that they are, in the words of Barnabas Piper, known of and not known.”

new morning merciesNew Morning Mercies: 365 Gospel-Centered Devotions for the Whole Year by Paul Tripp 10/31/14
I am always on the hunt for a good daily devotional. My Utmost for His Highest and Streams in the Desert have made significant impacts on my spiritual journey. In this new devotional Paul Tripp deals with the reality that mornings can be tough. Sometimes, a hearty breakfast and strong cup of coffee just aren’t enough. Offering more than a rush of caffeine, best-selling author Paul David Tripp wants to energize you with the most potent encouragement imaginable: the gospel. Forget “behavior modification” or feel-good aphorisms. Tripp knows that what we really need is an encounter with the living God. Then we’ll be prepared to trust in God’s goodness, rely on his grace, and live for his glory each and every day. I need this book and can’t wait to start my day with this kind of focus.

grave robberThe Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible by Mark Batterson 09/02/14
As an evangelical who is more likely to side with Thomas Jefferson on the subject of miracles than Benny Hinn, I need this book. “There are miracles all around us all the time,” says Mark Batterson, “but you won’t see them if you don’t know how to look for them.” Now the bestselling author of The Circle Maker reveals the incredible power of the seven miraculous signs of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. Batterson shows how they were not simply something Jesus did in the past, but something he wants to do now, in the present. He shares true stories of people today who are experiencing miracles in their lives. And he brings to light countless miracles, big and small, that we take for granted every day that point us toward the One who healed the sick, calmed the storm, and yes, even raised the dead. But this is more than a book about miracles. It’s a book about the only One who can perform them. Batterson cautions readers, “Don’t just seek miracles. Seek Jesus. And if you seek Jesus, miracles will find you.” Nothing has changed since Jesus called Lazarus out of his tomb four days after his funeral. Our impossible situations still double as God’s greatest opportunity to reveal his glory. No matter how big the problem is, God is bigger still.

killing lionsKilling Lions: A Guide through the Trials Young Men Face by John Eldridge – 09/09/14
As the father of two young men who have faced and continue to deal with lots of temptations and trials, this book is a must read for me. We want to be self-sufficient, to find our own direction as we pursue our dreams, to know it all and never ask for help. Isn’t this how most guys approach manhood? On our own, pretending we are doing better than we really are? But sooner or later the thrill of independence gets lost in the fog of isolation. It’s time to take the pressure off. We were never meant to figure life out on our own. This book was born out of a series of weekly phone calls between Sam Eldredge, a young writer in his twenties, and his dad, best-selling author John Eldredge. Join the conversation as a father and son talk about pursuing beauty, dealing with money, getting married, chasing dreams, knowing something real with God, and how to find a life you can call your own. Killing Lions is more than fatherly advice. It is an invitation into a journey: either to be the son who receives fathering or the father who learns what must be spoken. Most important, these conversations speak to a searching generation: “You are not alone. Its not all up to you. You are going to find your way.”

simplifySimplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels – 08/19/14
As a husband, father, writer, speaker, missionary, leader of a dynamic and growing ministry, and an elder at my local church, I need to stay focused on keeping things as simple and straight forward as I can. That is not an easy job and one that I have to pursue with all my energy. In Simplify, bestselling author Bill Hybels identifies the core issues that lure us into frenetic living—and offers searingly practical steps for sweeping the clutter from our souls. What if your life could be different? What if you could be certain you were living the life God called you to live—and building a legacy for those you love? If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most, roll up your sleeves: Simplified living requires more than just cleaning out your closets or reorganizing your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul. By eradicating the stuff that leaves your spirit drained, you can stop doing what doesn’t matter—and start doing what does.

 

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Did You Feel the Earth Move?

earthquakeI saw it first on Facebook and could hardly believe what I was reading. On Wednesday, August 27th there was a seismic shift in the Great Commission Community when well-known pastor and author David Platt publically announced that he was taking the helm at the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Denomination. David is widely known for his best-selling book, Radical and his passion to share the gospel with the least reached people’s on earth. I had the great privilege of hearing him speak at Urbana 2012 and afterward described it as the first time that I had ever heard someone speak who was out of breath before he got started.

Check out this video to hear about this decision in David’s own words.

This is truly the dawning of a new day in the world of global missions as a hero of the millennial generation steps into this vital role. The IMB is one of the biggest missions organizations in the world but is not widely known outside of the Southern Baptist and Great Commission circles. This move by David Platt will shine a bright light on reaching the ends of the earth with the gospel in a way that very few others could have done. His platform was already quite significant and growing. I wish him well and look forward to seeing how God will use him in the days ahead.

In many parts of the evangelical church today, responding to the great commission not a big topic. Many churches are just struggling to be relevant in a world that is less and less tolerant of absolute truth. As young people are rushing out the back door in droves and baby boomers are growing older, a real crisis is occurring and churches are closing. Some see the needs all around them and can hardly fathom sending people out from their own congregation to meet needs that are thousands of miles away. Who could afford that these days anyway?

Fortunately, there are churches bucking that trend and radically reshaping their churches to put the great commission in the center of all that they do. That is certainly true at Calvary Church in Lancaster where Steve Beirn is a pastor. For many years now, this innovative church has pioneered a local church driven vision for global mission. Instead of shrinking, they have grown. They now have over 100 people deployed in countries all over the world that call Calvary their home church. Their budget for this part of their ministry is larger than the entire annual budget of many medium size evangelical churches.

One of the keys to their success is the commitment to training and preparation. They recruit constantly and make it clear that this is a high calling and worthy of significant time. A person must complete a three year training program at Calvary before they are commissioned to go overseas. It is important to the church that they demonstrate an ability to share the gospel and disciple people in the local context. Once a person has completed this training, they are encouraged to join one of twelve “preferred” missions agencies that have a similar commitment to excellence. The results speak for themselves in the hundreds of people that have gone to the mission field over the years from this one church and have had a significant impact on spreading the gospel and fulfilling great commission.

As David Platt begins his new season on ministry, I am encouraged to believe that there may be a few more churches like Calvary springing up around the country. It is amazing to see how God blesses a congregation that is outward focused and gives of their best. As they focus on the needs of others, they are seeing their own needs met as well. A Great Commission church will be a healthy, vibrant and growing church.

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Seven Keys to Writing a Book

writerWhat and arrogant title for a blog post. As if I have all the wisdom in the world to tell you how to write a book. Well, maybe I don’t have all the wisdom in the world, but I have now completed writing my first book and wanted to share some insights from my writing process while they are fresh. I share these ideas knowing full well that every writer is unique and that everyone’s process will be different. Hopefully, someone who is an aspiring writer will find one or two of these tidbits to be useful
1. Make the time and get started: if you are planning on writing a book and work 80 hours a week, good luck. As a very busy person myself, I took the time that I was normally writing my blog each week to work on the book. As I got going, I realized that writing 3500 words each week required more time and I had to make sure I had this carved into my calendar to make this possible.

2. Have an outline and a plan – nothing is more frustrating than sitting down to write and staring at a blank screen with no idea where to get started. If you take the time to plan the outline of your book with key chapter topics decided in advance, things will go much more smoothly. As you approach each chapter, take the time to think about the format and structure. If you develop a pattern for the writing, it will become a labor of love and not a chore.

3. Find a place and time – this was one of the most important parts of my process. I found that writing in a specific chair (a really comfortable one) in my basement every Saturday morning worked best for me. I was fresh after a good night’s sleep and did not have the pressure of a busy work day staring me in the face. By writing in the same place every week, my mind and body got into a writing rhythm more quickly as I sat down to begin the process.

4. Write about what you know and are passionate about – while there are authors that can do phenomenal research about topics they knew nothing about before writing their book, they almost always have a passion for their subject. In my case, I found that writing a book about a topic that I knew something about and that I was passionate about made the writing much easier. People will also pay more attention to non-fiction books written by people who can write credibly about a subject they know something about.

5. Maintain a discipline – if you are going to write well, you have to do it a lot. I found that committing to a specific time each week and sticking to the plan made all the difference. A book will not write itself and one of the best ways to get past “writer’s block” is to simply sit down and start writing every time you have planned to do it. While writing is certainly a creative exercise it is also a personal discipline. Once you have done this for a few weeks in a row, it will become a good habit in your life and will not seem burdensome at all. You might even start looking forward to this “sacred” time each week.

6. Include narrative – I found that including a great story in each chapter made the writing go much more smoothly. As I recalled the events from the past, they came alive on paper and were fun to write about. It really is true that people remember the stories we tell much more that the facts we share. Taking stories and building out from there by sharing key principles that you have learned is a great way to keep your reader engaged.

7. Write with the reader in mind – this may sound obvious, but it is amazing how easy it is to write something that is meaningful to you, but may not make sense to anyone else. A helpful tip that I got from Rob Eager, author of Selling Your Book Like Wildfire, was to always remind myself of the questions that my readers would be asking like, “What is in this for me?” or “Why should I spend my precious time reading this book?” As I did that, it helped me to focus on making my book as useful and interesting as possible.

One final thing – writing a book is hard work and is not for everyone. It also may not be the right time in your life to contemplate doing it. I realized that I needed to write my blog for a while and hone my writing skills before I could ever tackle writing a full length book. It took me five years to get to this point. That said, if you do decide to do it, it can be one of the most fulfilling experiences you will ever put your heart, mind, body and soul into. Go for it.

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Step Out of Your Algorithm

independent bookstoreThis has been a really interesting summer so far.  I am writing a book – hence the blogging hiatus, Hachette and Amazon are “duking” it out and independent bookstores seem to be coming back into vogue as a legitimate and fun places to buy books.  Just this past week, I saw an article that I had to share.  This is from esquire.com and was written by Stephen Marche.  While it is written from a secular perspective, it has a lot to say that is meaningful to Christian bookstores as well.  I am in Atlanta this week for one of my favorite events of the year – the International Christian Retail Show.  This article and all it suggests for the future are part of the reason that I am writing my book and why I love bookstores.

The article was entitled, “How to Quit Amazon and Shop in an Actual Bookstore” – Read and Enjoy

The movement to boycott Amazon has been picking up speed for several weeks now. In the wake of strong-arm tactics in its negotiations with Hachette publishing, Amazon has managed to offend the actual writers whose books Hachette publishes, including Malcolm Gladwell, James Patterson, and JK Rowling. That wouldn’t matter so much if one of them wasn’t Stephen Colbert. He has promoted stickers that viewers can download from his website, which read, I DIDN’T BUY IT ON AMAZON. Amazon has responded by telling customers that anybody inconvenienced by the battle with Hachette should buy books elsewhere.

Until publishers decide to start a competitor website selling books, which eventually they are going to have to do, anyone wanting to follow Colbert’s or Amazon’s advice ought to venture into actual physical bookstores. Unfortunately, by now, purchasing print books in a brick-and-mortar building is something of a lost art, like taking snuff or drinking brandy after dinner. Which is not to say that it’s not worth doing. Quite the opposite. Buying books in a bookstore is one of life’s great, quiet pleasures. It leads to the purchase of better books. It leads to a deeper relationship to reading. It is a joy in and of itself.

Therefore, for those who need reminding, and for those who perhaps are too young ever to have been in a bookstore, a short guide to buying books in them:

1. Take your time.

In every bookstore, there is a book that is perfect for you, right now, at this exact moment of your life. That book will change you. Your job is to find it. It probably won’t happen right away. When you go to a bookstore, schedule a good half-hour there. You spend half an hour at the barber don’t you? You can spend at least the same amount of time looking over the life’s work of strangers who only want to make something you’ll love.

2. Do not go into a bookstore just to pick up a title.

The new Glenn Greenwald book? The latest Knausgaard volume? They’ll probably have it. But if you want something unusual, they might have it and they might not. In the past, what you used to do is “put a book on order.” The book would then arrive, with luck, inside a couple of weeks, at which point the customer had to go back to the bookstore to buy it. The pain of this process was the entire reason Amazon was started. The best reason not to go into a bookstore with a title in mind is that the book in a bookstore that you want is the one you don’t know exists. That’s the beauty of bookstores. They are labyrinths to get lost in.

3. Ask the people who work there.

In my experience, most of the people who work in bookstores are either about to be writers or are failed writers. Bookstore people (“employees” always seems like the wrong word to me) know what is happening in the world of books more than reviewers or publishers or authors themselves. In smaller bookstores — and as far as I’m concerned, the smaller the bookstore, the better — virtually everyone knows a great deal indeed about what books are going to fit what people. You have to be choosier in big-box bookstores, those Blockbusters of the mind, where at least a portion of the staff aren’t so much “in books” as they are “in retail.” I advise finding the man or woman with the weirdest glasses. They’re usually sulking around the poetry section or around the back. Those are the ones who usually know what’s good and what’s not.

4. Buy more than you think you’re going to read.

People make a big mistake going into a bookstore and purchasing a single volume. A good book arrives when the mood for it has arrived in the reader. And who can know his own moods? You should buy a whole bunch of books and then see how each strikes you. The plain fact is that a softcover book is one of the best value purchases in the world. If you buy four books and spend $60, you are going to get $60 worth of value if even one of them is worth reading. A good measure is to compare the price of a book to the price of food at a sporting event. Suddenly $26 for a book doesn’t seem exactly unfair, does it?

A good bookstore isn’t just a place to buy books. The really good ones are bespoke tailoring for your narrative impulse. And that experience, it’s worth pointing out, is available in every town, and it’s free. The real problem with Amazon isn’t that it’s strong-arming Hachette; it’s that it leads readers to buy books that they’ve already heard about. When you pick out a summer novel for yourself online, you’re going to pick the book that everybody else is reading, almost automatically. But the book that you want probably isn’t Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It probably isn’t another James Patterson. A good seller in a bookstore is infinitely superior in every way to a personalization algorithm. Even by entering a bookstore, you’re faced with literally a thousand choices that you’ve never been faced with before. Somewhere in there is something that’s entirely fresh to you, and will reward your soul by exposure. That’s what good books do, and good bookstores, too. They let you step out of your algorithm.

I hope you are enjoying your summer too.  If not, get a book and start reading.  Things will start looking up.

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Taking the Plunge

taking the plungeSo I have decided to dive in to the deep end of the pool. After several years of writing this blog I am now going to try my hand at writing some books. As a publisher who sees new book proposals on a weekly basis, I know that this is a risky venture. Nearly 300,000 new titles are published in English each year in the USA and the average book only sells about 300 copies in that same year. Anyone who chooses to write needs to do it with both a passion for their subject and a pragmatic perspective on what is possible. The initial books that I am going to work on are for a very specific audience and birthed from a particular burden I carry.

For a while now I have been concerned that Christian retailers have been closing their doors too quickly. The realities of tough economic times, a changing market and increased competition have driven many committed Christian business people to shut down their operations. Over the last decade many more Christian stores have closed than have opened. Even those committed to keeping their stores going have a difficult time finding successors when they reach retirement age. Not nearly enough younger entrepreneurs are considering investing in Christian retailing as either a viable business or a worthwhile ministry.

Today, we are at a tipping point and something has to be done. My first book is tentatively entitled, The Bookstore that Matters, and will be part memoir and part manifesto. I firmly believe that a bookstore that matters to its local community can survive and even thrive. Running a Christian bookstore is a high calling and a business worth committing your life too. If run properly, it will attract people, impact the community in significant ways and actually help in transforming lives in the here and now and for eternity.

My new book will draw on my own personal experience of running a Christian bookstore with no prior experience and no special training. Just as in the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, some bookstores can go from simple single digit growth to significant increases in impact and sales. I know because I saw it happen. We do not have to accept the standard wisdom of the pundits and the naysayers. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can see miracles take place in our day and time, even in a Christian bookstore. It is time to begin a new revolution, a new movement of Christian book pioneers and innovators.

So why am I so urgent about this? Something strange is going on. While the number of independent Christian bookstores continues to decrease, independent secular bookstores are on the rise. For the past five years in a row, the American Booksellers Association has reported a net increase in its membership. This should not be. During this same period of time, many Christian publishers have been purchased by secular companies and now the vast majority of Christian books and Bibles are published by people that do not name Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  (Please Note – There are a large number of dedicated Christians still working for the companies owned by these new corporate parents.) While this may not seem to have had a dramatic impact yet, it will in the years to come. We are already seeing the ripple effects of this with the recent news of Waterbrook/ Multnomah pulling out of their membership from the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters).

Independent Christian Bookstores are as important as independent Christian publishers and possibly even more so. No one is going to share the truth of the gospel with a lost soul in Barnes & Noble or the local ABA bookstore. No one but the Christian bookstore is going to stock a wide variety of resources for the local church and make them available when it is too late to get the same products from Amazon before Sunday. When these stores are closed it really does matter. The trees are falling in the forest and people can hear it. So who is going to respond to this crisis?

I hope that my book will be an inspiration to a new generation of young Christian entrepreneurs and to the current generation of Christian retailers that are thinking about giving up. Pray for me as I begin this endeavor. In order to carve out the time needed to make this happen, I will be taking a blogging hiatus for the summer. Keep your eye on this space for news of my progress and periodic updates on the book. This fall, I hope to be able to share much more about the release plan for the book and how soon you will be able to purchase it. Oh – while you are waiting, why not go to your local Christian bookstore, buy a book and be an encouragement to someone who has dedicated their life to this great cause.

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The Spring List – 10 Book Recommendations

Finding great Christian books that are worth the time, edifying for the mind and good for the soul is not as easy as it used to be. With so many Christian publishers having been purchased by secular entities, it becoming harder to find that “gem” that is a must read. With that in mind, here are my recommendations for the spring.

A Loving Life1. A Loving Life by Paul Miller – I did not think it was possible for Miller to top the writing in his seminal book, A Praying Life that has now become the go to book on prayer. This is certainly my favorite book of the ten that I am going to recommend. In it, he tackles the tough questions at the heart of our struggle to love head-on. Drawing from the book of Ruth, A Loving Life offers the help we need to embrace relationship, endure rejection, cultivate community, and reach out to even the most unlovable around us as we discover the power to live a loving life. I was profoundly challenged to evaluate how I love those in my life in a way that reflects how deeply I am loved by my heavenly father.

2. Everyday Church by Tim Chester & Steve TimmisEveryday Church– I am currently reading this book and enjoying every page. Written from the context of doing church in the post-Christian world of Great Britain, it has a lot to say about doing church in the USA as well. Many of the leaders in my own local church are reading it right now and being impacted by the concepts and ideas that they discuss. Their premise is that we live in an increasingly post-Christian culture. More and more we find ourselves on the margins as less and less people have any intention of ever attending church. What used to work doesn’t work anymore and we need to adapt. I really like their emphasis on living out the gospel in every sphere of life so that like the early church we will once again attract people because of “the aroma of Christ.”

show them jesus3. Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower – As a Sunday school teacher of both children and adults, I am always drawn to Christ centered material that will help me point people to Jesus. In this new book, Jack makes the point that millions of church kids are growing up and deciding to leave the church. They listened attentively in Sunday school, made friends, and seemed committed. But one day, they quit. What happened? The Bible says we love God because he first loved us. So if we are not primarily teaching our kids about God’s love for us in Christ, we may miss our opportunity to capture their hearts. I love the fact that Show Them Jesus challenges the culture of low-stakes, low-expectations teaching and invites teachers to do nothing less than teach and treasure the good news of Jesus in every lesson.

4. What’s Best Next by Matt Permanwhats best next – As a follow up to Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy, this is a great companion piece. In it, Perman states that productivity isn’t just about getting more things done. It’s about getting the right things done—the things that count, make a difference, and move the world forward. He shows us that when we take God’s purposes into account, a revolutionary insight emerges. Surprisingly, we see that the way to be productive is to put others first—to make the welfare of other people our motive and criteria in determining what to do (what’s best next). I love his emphasis on doing work that matters and giving me a practical approach for increasing my effectiveness as a leader.

taking god at his word5. Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung – This prolific young evangelical writer has taken the Christian book publishing industry by storm and recently won the coveted Christian Book of the Year Award. In this new book, he unpacks what the Bible says about the Bible. He deals with practical questions that both Christians and non-Christians have about the Bible. His aim is to show that the Bible is knowable, necessary and enough and how that should impact our lives. In a day when the word of God seems to be diminished by every new blog post that comes down the pike, this book is very timely. Far too many younger evangelicals are being persuaded that the Bible is too complex, insufficient for the modern world that we live in and not really relevant to the problems we face. I am delighted that CLC will be publishing a new book this fall called Blurry Bringing Clarity to the Bible, which will be a great companion piece.whats your world view

6. What’s Your World View by James Anderson – As a parent of teens who are facing big life choices, this book is of real interest to me. This innovative book is an interactive journey of discovery aimed at helping you understand and evaluate the options when it comes to identifying your worldview. Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief for World Magazine had this to say “What’s Your Worldview? is a brilliant concept, because each generation stumbles into its own ways to learn about God. Francis Schaeffer spoke about truth to many now old. James Anderson speaks to the young who grew up with ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books, where the outcome depends on the choices readers make. A great gift for thoughtful teens who need to choose wisely.”

the world is not ours to save7. This World is Not Ours to Save by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson – This is a very practical and necessary book for the next generation of young adults growing up with the pressure to live “radical” lives of meaning and purpose. So many really do want to save the world, and have a dizzying array of worthy causes to pursue. But passionate enthusiasm can quickly give way to disillusionment, compassion fatigue or empty slacktivism. As they move from awareness to mobilization, they bump up against the complexities of global problems—and liking Facebook pages only goes so far. In this book, Wigg-Stevenson casts an alternate vision for doing good based on the liberating truth that only God can save the world. This has to be good news to a generation that can sometimes see “missional” as the “necalled to stayw legalism”.

8. Called to Stay by Caleb Breakey – Written from a millennial to his own generation, this book is passionate plea for his contemporaries to consider staying in the church and making a difference. In Called to Stay Breakey takes a refreshingly honest look at the church, the problem of Millennials leaving, and the stark reality of why the church desperately needs them. He holds nothing back as he unleashes an ambitious rallying cry to heal the church and inject his generation’s desire for truth, passion, and conviction into other believers. I love what renowned Christian author Kyle Idleman has to say about this book, “Before you leave your church, before you spread rumors about your church, and before you abandon the church altogether, read Called to Stay. If you read this book with an open mind, it just might change your perspective of what it means to be a church member.”

walking with god9. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller – One of my favorite authors has tackled an issue that has plagued the church for millennia. It is written in the same vein as the two classics, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, which was published more than thirty years ago, and C. S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, published more than seventy years ago. It is destined to become the definitive Christian book for our generation on why bad things happen and how we should respond to them. I highly recommend it to anyone dealing with grief and suffering.visions of vocation

10. Visions of Vocation by Steve Garber – I am including this in my list because it is so highly recommended by my fellow book lover Byron Borger. This is what he had to say about it, “I’ve mentioned more than once that this has been, in my experience, the best book I’ve read in years. It is so eloquent, thoughtful, interesting, and important. Garber’s call to care deeply about the world, even as we sense its hurts and brokenness, and to be responsible agents within the contours of history, is beautiful and vital. If you know young adults who are idealistic and care deeply about the world, this would be a significant gift to honor them at this season of their life.” This one is moving up the list of my “must read and recommend” books for the year.

 

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Getting the Word Around the World

photo 33It took twenty five hours to get there, but it was worth it. This week I traveled to South Korea for the first time to participate in a Global Publishing Conference being hosted by our parent organization, CLC International. It was a wonderful time to connect with my colleagues from India, Korea, the Philippines, Pakistan, Myanmar and Colombia. Each of these teams has been publishing Christian books in their countries for a number of years or is about to begin doing so.

Here is an overview of what CLC is doing around the world in publishing:

Korea – CLC has been publishing books in Korea for over 40 years. Their focus has been on producing academic materials for the fast growing Seminary and Bible College community. Given that the Presbyterian Church is one of the largest evangelical groups in Korea, the emphasis has been photo 5on translating and publishing books by reformed authors. Over the decades, the team has published 1500 books and they currently have 800 in print. CLC Korea is the largest publishing house in the CLC World and operates from a beautiful four story building in downtown Seoul. They have recently built a new and larger warehouse space to house the books they have published. With the growth of the evangelical church in Korea, the team is now looking to expand their publishing emphasis beyond the academic niche they have developed so well. It was great to see two of the books that they acquired from CLC Publications in the USA being featured in their showroom.

photo 22India – The team in India has reignited their publishing efforts in the last seven years. They are the second largest publishing house in the CLC World with over 600 titles in print. More than half of these are in the Tamil language. The team leader, Christopher Robert, has led the way in re-establishing their English language publishing initiatives. We have worked very closely with him and many of the titles that CLC USA first acquired are now being produced for the Indian market at very affordable prices. In the last 18 months they have launched a growing e-commerce website that is filling orders from all over the country.

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Colombia – The team in Colombia produces the Spanish language materials for the rest of the CLC World and has 150 titles in print. They publish as many as twelve new titles each year and work with many of the largest evangelical publishers in the USA to get high quality content. We have a special relationship with this team and have given them first right of refusal to publish any of our titles in Spanish. Over the years, this has been a fruitful partnership and many of our new titles are quickly translated into Spanish and made available to the public. The work in Colombia is growing so fast that they have recently purchased a sizeable new warehouse to house the books they publish and distribute.

Myanmar – CLC has been publishing books in the Burmese language since 1992. Today they have over 200 books in print and have published some very important books including the Lion Bible Handbook and the Purpose Driven Life. Jacob Mung, the team leader, has worked sacrificially with his team to make evangelical Christian photo 36literature available in this country that is closed to outside missionary influence. One local pastor has said that Jacob’s efforts have changed the trajectory of Christianity in his country. They are now beginning of creating the first ever Burmese Language Study Bible. Ideally it will be available by 2017.

Philippines – The CLC team in the Philippines produce books in both Tagalog and English. Today they have nearly 300 titles in print and are working on as many as twenty new books a year. It was exciting to hear their desire to produce more books by local Philippine authors. They have worked closely with CLC USA to get rights for English language printing and have made many of our new books available within a year of their first publication in the USA.

Pakistan – CLC publishes books in the Urdu language in this predominantly Muslim country. They are currently working on two books by Lee Strobel including The Case for Christ. Given the small number of evangelicals in the country, they have required external subsidy for publishing work. It is a dangerous place to work and our team members have had their lives threatened in the past. Despite this, they minister on a daily basis to Muslims that visit our bookstore.photo 3

At the conference, we were challenged to consider doubling our publishing efforts over the next nine years and to help a number of new countries get their publishing efforts started for the first time. What a blessing to worship, dream and plan together.

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