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Ir-rev-rend: Christianity Without the Pretense

Ir-rev-rendPastor Rick Warren has often said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and an ounce of pretense is worth a pound of manure.” Fake faith is a pet peeve of mine, and it is certainly an issue God addresses rather directly in Scripture. I believe God is serious about it because ultimately, Christianity with pretense hurts the reputation of the gospel. So, it’s a huge relief when someone comes clean and speaks with brutal honesty about the Christian life.

Brutal honesty, plus hilarious anecdotes and some inspiring stories of redemption at work changing lives is what I encountered when I read Ir-rev-rend: Christianity Without the Pretense. Faith Without the Facade. by Greg Surratt.

As a church planter who is trying to figure things out on a week-by-week basis, I loved Greg’s opening chapters in which he relayed plenty of advice about how NOT to plant a church, all learned in the laboratory of his own experiences planting Seacoast Church in the Carolinas. Greg would almost have us believe that the church came into being in spite of his ministry there. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but Greg is that brutally honest about how he learned things the hard way.

Ir-rev-rend is not just a book for ministry leaders, though. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to put into the hands of people who have a problem with the faith. We live in a skeptical culture and we’re handing people plenty of ammunition against the authenticity of our faith. Greg doesn’t dodge any questions. He tackles perceptions about our legalistic tendencies, our hypocrisy, and our sometimes meaningless traditions. On numerous fronts, Greg re-directs us back to a simple, understandable, and very biblical faith.

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I’m glad Greg chose to write the book, and I know he wants you to buy a copy. He even gave you ten reasons to do so on his own blog post about its release:

  • The writing style is kind of like Ann LaMotte meets Donald Miller in a Shack
  • It cost about the same as three Starbucks coffees but it lasts longer and has greater eternal value
  • The chapter on Sex is worth the price of the book
  • My wife and children will love you forever
  • You may recognize yourself in one of the chapters
  • It’s written for people who have a hard time finishing an entire book
  • You can start on any chapter you want and create your own adventure
  • You are having trouble coming up with the perfect Christmas gift for that special somebody
  • You think a lot of Christians take themselves a tad too seriously
  • God just might use it to change your life, stranger things have happened you know

If you want to laugh… if you want to get real about your faith… if you want a great model for communicating Christianity in a post-Christian culture, grab Ir-rev-rend: Christianity Without the Pretense. Faith Without the Facade. by Greg Surratt.

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Small Groups With Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities

Small Groups With Purpose: How To Create Healthy CommunitiesThere are, in every industry, certain books that serve as cornerstones – manuals of the trade, if you will. If you want to fix a car, you buy a Chilton’s Guide. If you’re working in any psychology-related field, you need a DSM-IV manual. And if you’re in small group ministry, ministry leadership, or you simply want your own small group to thrive, you need to have the new industry standard manual, Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities.

Steve Gladen, Pastor of Small Groups and Spiritual Maturity at Saddleback Church since 1998, has just released the very book I’ve been hoping for. He addresses the biblical foundations of community, group life, discipleship, and how small groups relate to the larger church context. According to Gladen, “A healthy small group is a community of people who challenge each other to become all that God destined them to become.” That is certainly the goal, but as Steve points out, “unless you know what the target is, you can’t hit it.”

But this book doesn’t stop with the foundation, Steve continues onward to help any church leader build an entire small group ministry. He presents the spiritual growth assessment tools and paradigm graphics that have shaped Saddleback’s small group ministry to number well over 4,500 groups and 30,000 people. He covers the five purposes and demonstrates how each can be woven into the fabric of small group life.

Good books answer good questions, anticipating the needs of the reader in advance. Steve devotes the latter part of his book to doing just that. Should you use Sunday School or small groups? How can you recruit more group hosts? What do you do with kids? How do you practice the purpose of worship in the setting of a small group? These are the kinds of questions I’ve asked repeatedly and answers are sometimes tough to find. Steve Gladen provides them and answers many more pertinent questions as well.

Small Groups with Purpose is written by the industry’s thought leader on the subject, but it’s written for leaders at every level. I would put in at the top of my list of “must have” resources for beginning group leaders, Pastors, and everyone in between who is or hopes to be involved in small group ministry. Now that it’s on the market, it’s indispensable. Get it. Read it. Mark it up, and apply it so that you can begin creating healthy communities today!

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Every Pastor Should Read ‘Note to Self’

Note to Self by Joe Thorn“Preaching it” is easier than living it. This creates significant problems when our speaking talent outweighs our personal character. Therefore, it is imperative that we, as shepherds, shepherd ourselves – that we hear the Word, do the Word, and preach to ourselves first. That’s why I love Joe Thorn’s book Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself (Re: Lit Books).

We often buy books to help us prepare sermons. You should buy this book to help prepare yourself. The book is divided into three sections, all revolving around the gospel. The first section leads our hearts to assume a posture of praise. The second teaches us how the gospel impacts our relationships with other people. The third reminds us of the impact the gospel should have on self. Here’s a line we need to hear concerning our wives…

You should seek to be the brightest representation of Jesus she sees, as you represent Christ as Savior and servant to her. That would look like seeking her out when you get home from work, instead of seeking solace for yourself. It means affirming her calling and gifts, listening to her, speaking words of encouragement to her, and at all times working for her good. Jesus loves you this way, and in like manner you are called to love your wife.

The gospel is not simply a salvation message intended for people who are lost and apart from Christ. The gospel is the central core of all that we are in Christ and all that we do for Christ. Believers need to be fed from the message of the gospel, and this book drives it home in the hearts of those of us who are most at risk for taking the gospel for granted – preachers.

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Saying “Yes” and Saying “I Surrender”

are pretty much the same when it comes to our life with God. I’m not sure why this thought didn’t occur to me until I watched this video from Kay Warren…

Say Yes to God - Kay WarrenYou can read more in Kay’s book, Say Yes to God: A Call to Courageous Surrender.

Jim Carrey made a movie called Yes Man in which he makes a commitment to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes along, no matter what it is (no, I’m not endorsing the movie). He learns this technique for living from a sort of whacky guru who winds up confessing that the philosophy certainly has flaws and Carrey’s character experiences the effects of those flaws in the film. On the positive side, he changes radically from being a guy who shuns company, lacks ambition, and turns everything down into a guy who lives with vitality, embracing each new adventure.

It’s a good parable for us. Some of us have gotten into the habit of saying “no” to everything. We desire the comfortable confines of our safe zones. Saying “yes” to God might cost us time, money, our reputation, or our cushy life. On the other hand, saying “yes” also opens us up to the real adventure God intended us to live – the life of chasing Him, risking all for Him, and squeezing life for all that its worth while we’re here.

“Surrender” might sound negative or threatening. “Yes” might sound naive or pie-in-the-sky. But “I surrender” and “yes” make up the core of how we should respond to God, not only in the big things (i.e. moving across the globe for missions) but also in the little things (stopping to offer an encouraged word to someone who is visibly upset). So… what do you say?

Is Money a god or a Gift?

Money: Gift or God?Jamie Munson tackles that very question in his book, Money – God or Gift. Jamie’s book is intended for use as a Bible study for either small groups or individuals. The really good side of the format is that Jamie gets right to the point in every chapter with a biblical principle and real life illustrations.

This book is for people who love money, hate money, new Christians, old Christians, and people who don’t have a relationship with Christ at all. It’s both biblical and practical at the same time. He tackles tough questions about debt, get-rich-quick-schemes, retirement, and how God’s economy really functions.

If you’re looking for help in the area of finances and a biblical viewpoint on stewardship, grab Money – God or Gift!

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Note: This post also appears at Pastors.com.