I don’t think Christians really know what to do with humour. The stereotype that Christians are a bunch of humourless neigh-sayers unfortunately has some truth to it. We can be quick to take offence and slow to laugh at ourselves. And that’s a real shame for two reasons. Firstly, the Bible can be outright hilarious at times (I will never not laugh when read 2 Kings 2:23). Secondly, we may be missing out on learning truths we may otherwise be blind to. And that’s why Telling the Truthiness: The Gospel of Stephen Colbert by Richard Braaksma is worth reading and engaging with.
A few years ago, a friend and I were writing a kids talk for a church service. We wanted my puppet orangutan to tell the kids why the resurrection was so important. And we paused. We both knew that the resurrection was important, but we were struggling to put into words WHY it was important. I’m sure if we had a copy of John Chapman’s book Making The Most of The Cross at hand back then, we wouldn’t have been struggling. Because this is a great resource that clearly explains some big truths.
I grew up Catholic. My parents had me baptised in a Roman Catholic Church when I was a baby. The priest tried to baptise me as “John” because Joel wasn’t Christian enough. I attended a Catholic primary school, where I also served as an altar boy at the church attached to the school. Putting on a robe, carrying a candle, and helping the priest do communion was preferable to sitting through the service. Even back in those days I was easily bored.
By the time I was 15 I was preparing myself to walk away from the Roman Catholic Church. My experience of the church didn’t match with my experience of the world. I began to feel that Jesus was a fictional story and that the church existed as a quaint little throwback that stood in the way of me discovering the truth behind the universe. I started to explore new age beliefs. Until one day, when I was 17, a friend introduced me to the Jesus of the Bible. Not long after this, I welcomed Jesus as my saviour and joined a Protestant church.
I share my story with you because the book I’m reviewing is on a subject that is close to me. The Road Once Travelled by Mark Gilbert (with Cecily Paterson) is written for people within the Roman Catholic Church who are feeling disillusioned. The aim is to address their concerns and point to the real Jesus of the Bible as the answer to their problems. This is the kind of book that is theoretically aimed right at 17-year-old Joel. So in reviewing The Road Once Travelled, both 31-year-old Joel and 17-year-old Joel will weigh in with their views.
There’s a danger in thinking that the only books useful for churches are the ones written by Christians about church. This point of view is incredibly short sighted. There are all kinds of books out there, written by non-Christians, about all kinds of things. Things that at first glance might have nothing to do with how to run a church. But when you think about it, there’s a lot we can learn from these seemingly unrelated books. I’m always keen to check out, for example, books about business. Books that explore how to organise people, how to run an organisation, how to promote yourself. These are things that are incredibly relevant for someone like me who is involved with running a church. I’m especially interested in books that chuck out the conventional wisdom and present an outside-of-the-box way of thinking. Rework is one of those books.
I love being a youth minister. God has used me to influence the lives of many young people over the years. It’s an enormous privilege. And it’s not just because I can justify buying video games as a ministry expense. The big reward is seeing the results of your hard work, when you see a young person growing in godliness and maturity. But before you get to that point, there’s a lot of trials along the way. And a lot of conversations. Some of them you are prepared for. Some of them come out of nowhere and you don’t know how to deal with them.
That’s why Steven Gerali’s new series of books What Do I Do When… is such a valuable resource.
So when is he going to let me in on it? When is he going to present me with a folder full of which decisions I need to make to end up where he wants me? I don’t care if he uses visions, dreams or skywriting, I want God to tell me what to do. Otherwise I’ll end up doing the wrong thing and seriously ruin God’s plan for my life. I just don’t know what to do.
Ever feel like this? Ever feel like you just don’t know what to do with your life? Well Kevin DeYoung wants you to stop over thinking and stop waiting for a sign. He wants you to Just Do Something.
Are teenagers boys and girls or men and women? This is a question that I often contemplate. Do I treat these teenagers as fragile little creatures or do I expect them to step up and take on the same responsibilities as an adult? Is there a middle ground and if so, where on the spectrum does it lie? And most importantly, do my expectations match reality?
Alex and Brett Harris were both teenagers when they wrote Do Hard Things. They argue that teenagers are capable of doing much but expected to do little. That teenagers should break through the barriers of low expectations and attempt great things. And I have to say, they make a compelling argument.
Think back to when you were a kid. For some of you this will be an easier task than for others. Remember how it felt. Did you ever feel like you were ignored? That no one ever paid attention to you? Most of us have felt like that at some stage. Now what if you could harness this “power” for good? Could a kid be the ultimate spy, able to slip around unnoticed and help take down the bad guys?
That’s the idea behind the CHERUB series of books by Robert Muchamore. Sometimes the best spy for the job is a 11 year old.
by Jeff Kinney
Comics are awesome. I know that’s not a controversial statement coming from me but I thought I’d put it out there. Full text books are good too but I like me books with pictures. If only there was something out there that could meet me half way. If only there was some kind of full text/comic book hybrid.
Thank you Jeff Kinney. Thank you.
Thank you for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the story of Greg Heffley and his adventures in th 7th grade. One part slice of life written journal, one part cartoon, 100% funny.
By Steven L. Case
I love youth ministry. I love getting alongside teenagers and introducing them to Jesus. There are few things better than being there to see that look in a young person’s eye when it finally clicks and they commit themselves to Christ. It’s a great privilege to be a youth minister. But it’s not easy work. There are pressures from parents and ministry staff. People don’t understand what the task involves and can think all you’re doing is hanging out. And with many youth ministers being younger themselves and early in their ministry life, they don’t always have the skills needed to deal with these pressures. That’s why a book like Help! I’m A Frustrated Youth Worker! is a must read.
by Dale E. Basye
Where do the bad kids go? If a really rotten kid dies, do they go to a) heaven, b) hell, or c) somewhere else? If you answered c, then maybe you’ve been reading the kids book Heck: Where The Bad Kids Go. Welcome to Heck. It’s not quite hell, but it isn’t a pleasant place to be either. Heck is where underage sinners go to be rehabilitated or punished for all eternity – or until they turn 18. Heck is not a place you want to spend any time. Are you in danger of spending time in Heck?
Dan Brown, of Da Vinci Code fame, has a new book out called The Lost Symbol. Here’s Greg Clarke from Centre for Public Christianity reviewing the book.
Children’s literature is an interesting beast. The bookstore shelves are filled with books hoping and dreaming to be the next Harry Potter. Brightly coloured covers adorn the books, all of them hoping to hook you in with Book 1 so you’ll stick around for the rest of the series. It’s not about reading and enjoying one book – it’s about committment to the franchise. The kids section of the bookstore has always been on my radar, but rarely have I done more than dip my toe into the waters. No more! Here lies the pop culture of the future. What is being published here impacts not only the worlds of movies and television, but it shapes the minds of an entire generation. So what are these underagers reading?
Recently I picked up a kids book called Heck: Where The Bad Kids Go, for obvious Pop Culture Christ related reasons. It had me questioning the content and craft of books aimed at teens and pre-teens. Last Saturday I plunked myself down in the kids section of the local bookstore to study the shelves. Gazing at glittery covers and books about teenage spies. This is a world that I’m keen to explore.
Here’s where you can help. If you’re a teen or pre-teen (or you’re a parent of a teen or pre-teen or work with them and can answer on their behalf), what are you reading? What attracts you to a series? What are the most popular books at your school library that always seem to be out? Are there any books or series that are just screaming out for the Pop Culture Christ treatment? It doesn’t have to have religious themes, but if everyone is reading it, I want to know. Speak up in the comments!
Written by Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins
Years ago, my church started a new congregation for high-schoolers. It was an exciting time. But there was one thing I never understood. Whenever it was time for one of the student ministers to preach, they were incredibly anxious. Sweating blood anxious. For them, speaking to teenagers was on the same level as jumping out of a plane without a parachute while wrestling with an irate grizzly bear. Being only a few years out of high-school myself, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I think they would have been more confident if they had read Fields and Robbins book Speaking to Teenagers.
Written by Murray Smith
This is a book I’ve been waiting a very long time for. I’m often looking for great Christian books that I can put into the hands of a teenager and say “read this, it’s good”. Most Christian stuff out there is pitched at too high a level for your average 14 year old. And once you’ve used up John Dickson’s fantastic books, there’s not a great deal left out there. Until now. Murray Smith’s Jesus All About Life is just the book I’ve been waiting for.
by Craig Schuftan
Have you ever met an emo? Have you ever walked past one in the street or sat down with one for a conversation? Have you ever wondered what’s going through their head, why they think and feel the way they do? What is an emo any way?
Craig Schuftan has thought about these things. And he’s cracked the code. He’s worked out it’s all connected – from David Bowie to Smashing Pumpkins to Weezer to My Chemical Romance. The key to understanding? The Romantic poets of the 19th century. And now it all makes so much more sense.
By Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
The cross is the most crucial part of Christianity. If Jesus did not die on the cross and rise back to life 3 days later, then Christianity is a joke. There is so much happening on the first Easter weekend. So many things are being resolved. Things about Jesus’ nature and character. About sin. About death. About our righteousness before God. About our eternal life. About so much more.
There is so much going on when it comes to the cross. And yet at times, when I’m teaching and preaching this most wonderful of events, I find it hard to not get all intellectual about it. I struggle not to turn it into a thinking exercise. To reduce what Jesus did on the cross into head knowledge and nothing else. That’s why I’m so thankful for Mark Driscoll’s and Gerry Breshears’ Death by Love.
By Christian George
Every week or so, I walk into the book shop at College and browse the new release section. The staff helpfully display all the new books in one place. I have a book allowance that I don’t have to pay for, so I have a policy of grabbing what ever looks like it might be remotely interesting and adding it to my “To Read Pile”. Sometimes this can be risky as I end up with a book that I have no interest in and struggle to finish. Other times I can discover pure Gold. I’m very glad I picked up Godology.
The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting For Christ
Edited by John Mark Reynolds & Roger Overton
Christian + Blogger = Very interested in what this book has to say. This book features a collection of 15 essays that explores Christianity and the new media. Should Christians be using the new media? How should they use the new media? What aspects of Christianity should be standing up and paying attention? There’s a lot to think about in this book.