If you're like me, you've perhaps seen some "Top Reading Lists of 2016" floating around the internet and social media. Rather than adding my own such list (though click here to see some other books I've recently recommended), I figured I'd continue my tradition of highlighting some of the "Top Reading Lists of 2016" that I've found beneficial.
In other words, check out these book lists and you'll find some books that are worth reading. Of course, keep in mind that not every book is created equal, remember to read discerningly, and always remember that a careful and responsible reading of the Bible should be our final authority. But I generally think these "sources" are worth listening to for some worthwhile reads (I know I'll hope to be reading many of these I've not yet!) - and to see what's current in Christian publishing today. (Or click here for a bit more on how to R.E.A.D. books well.)
If you're still looking for some last minute Christmas gift ideas or want some reading material for yourself while taking some vacation days, these lists can come in handy that way too!
Below I've included both (1) links to sites where you can see the "top reading lists" (often with some explanation of why books were selected), followed by (2) a listing of books that made their way onto multiple lists. Happy reading!
2 Timothy 4:1-3 is a great "go to" passage for preaching. Listen to what Paul says:
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
There are all sorts of reasons this passage shouldn't be overlooked by those who preach. The importance of preaching is clearly highlighted: Paul's command in verse 2 is to PREACH THE WORD. That simple command drives this passage. If you look closely, this passage highlights the gravity of preaching (v. 1), its importance (v. 3), and different ingredients that will make their way into our preaching over the course of time ("correct, rebuke, and encourage"). All of these things are worth thinking about.
But the place I want to focus is on the two "qualifiers" that Paul mentions at the end of v. 2. As we "preach the Word," we're to do so with "great patience" and "careful instruction." I'm worried that these important qualifiers can be too easily lost by some who want to focus exclusively on other parts of this passage, and so let's look briefly at each of these, as we factor them into our preaching (and teaching).
I'm excited about Terry Linhart's (ed) recently released Teaching the Next Generations: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching Christian Formation. As the title and subtitle make clear, this book's focus is on teaching for Christian formation. Among others things, chapters throughout the book highlight the contribution of teaching for discipleship (ch. 1), developing a theology of education (ch. 2), a scriptural basis for teaching (ch. 3), the essence of the life of a teacher (ch. 4), along with sections on learning theories (section 2), curricular considerations for various ages (section 3), methodologies and evaluation (sections 4 and 5).
I'm excited about how this book will be an ongoing resource for me in a number of roles - as a teacher and communicator, as someone who thinks about scope and strategy in a church context, and simply as an advocate for the teaching ministry of local churches. I'm looking forward to digging into the book further.
I was reading through the Introduction last night, and ran across this quote that further whets my appetite for the book; the quote draws attention to the challenge (but also the opportunity) of teaching for Christian formation today. Check it out:
We stand here in a new century with a significant challenge before us. Recent research suggests that the church is losing young adults, even those who 'grew up' in the church. David Kinnaman says young adults leave in part because the church as field to help them think about and answer difficult questions. Similarly, the largest study on the religiosity of youth in America showed that church teens were surprisingly inarticulate about their faith. When researchers posed questions about what they believed, young people said it was the first time that an adult had asked them about their beliefs, and they seemed unable to answer basic questions about the central doctrines of the Christian faith. Though there is a lot of teaching in the church, could it be there is not as much learning?
Recently I had the privilege of presenting at a Teacher In-Service for Cornerstone Christian School in the Bellevue, NE area. The topic I was asked to teach on was "The Need for Biblical Truth."
Here's an edited form of my first major point: Why does biblical truth need my attention?
This last Sunday (Oct 16, 2016) I preached from Romans 8:18-39 on the subject of hope. (Interested in accessing the message? Click here and scroll down to the sermon from Oct 16, 2016.)
I'm a firm believer that hope can be on the distinguishing features of Christians (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), and so I loved the chance to spotlight what Christians are hoping FOR and who we're hoping IN. As we tally these things up, we see that knowing Jesus offers incomparable hope. This is why we can say, along with Paul: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
Here's a summary of these points of my sermon (what Christians are hoping for, and who we're hoping in). Allow these to reinforce the incomparable hope knowing Jesus offers in your own life.
At its core, the Brookside Institute is all about building and reinforcing foundations of the Christian faith. We do this because we believe that something called "catechesis" - even though we don't always call it that - is still important and worthwhile. We love offering classes that help people Dig Deep, Learn Good, and Launch Well.
Everything in this post so far paints an initial picture of WHAT the Institute is all about, and WHY I believe so strongly in this equipping ministry for the local church. But at least one more important question still needs to be answered: HOW do we go about doing this?
I suppose there's a few angles by which this question could be approached. But perhaps THE SINGLE GREATEST ANSWER to the "how?" question is this: Institute teachers. If an excellent ministry (the "what") that clearly adds value (the "why") is offered, but the wrong people are at the helm, the "what" and the "why" don't matter (or they won't be realized). In other words, if you have the WHAT and the WHY but not the WHO, things are going to either collapse or never take shape.
All of this means teachers - in the Institute, or any other Christian education environment, for that matter - play a really big role. And that means we need to know what we're looking for in teachers. This helps with the selection filter, it adds credibility and value to everything else, and these qualities are things that shape ongoing training and development.
So, with that said, here are the 4 "C"s that make a strong Institute teacher:
Last night, the Brookside Institute offered a seminar on "How We Got the Bible." About 50 people signed up for 90 minutes of overview on origins and preservation of the Bible - good stuff! The overarching goal of this seminar was to reinforce trust in the Bible (and its message!) by examining its origin and reliable preservation.
As the Institute seeks to build and reinforce foundations of the Christian faith in the areas of biblical literacy and theological formation, seminars like this play an important role.
Below I've included some things that will give you a taste of the seminar. Here's the "Table of Contents" for what follows in this post if you keep scrolling:
As the Brookside Institute builds and reinforces foundations of the Christian faith, we CAN'T overlook the gospel. It's no overstatement to say you won't have the Christian faith without the gospel (check it out in 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 and Galatians 1:6-9). Keeping the gospel front-and-center is that big of a deal.
Since that's the case, I figured I'd post a sermon I gave last Sunday (9/18/2016) on the centrality of the gospel from Galatians 2:11-21. Here's a brief outline of the sermon:
I've also included the "gospel-shaped behavior" diagram I used when talking about Galatians 2:20 - you'll see that below under the video. (The time stamp of that segment is appx 29:15-33:38.)
Galatians 2:20 - "Gospel -Shaped Behavior" Diagram
Keep reading to see the "gospel-shaped behavior" pictures I drew out on Sunday.
"Curriculum" is a word that makes most people yawn. It might conjure up associations of dated clip art, irrelevant material, canned presentations, and more. But what if all of those things are BAD examples of curriculum? And what if curriculum - properly understood and excellently applied - is valuable and essential?
I've appreciated how James Riley Estep, Jr. draws attention to the valuable role curriculum plays, in Mapping Out Curriculum in Your Church: Cartography for Christian Pilgrims. He's speaking here specifically of the role curriculum plays in the life of a local church:
Anyone who has traveled knows what it is like to rely on a map to guide the way....Maps are also needed to guide us through the journey of faith. We are all pilgrims on a journey. For some, the pilgrimage is new and unknown. For others, the path is familiar. Identifying desirable destinations, pathways that have proven beneficial, and providing a means of navigation along the way are all part of the church's cartography, its mapmaking. Curriculum is a congregation's map though the process of discipleship, providing disciples, new and old, with the means to continue on their way toward Christlikeness, and the Christian educator is the cartographer" (pp. 1-2, bold emphasis added).
A little further along Estep continues:
When one fully appreciates the broad concept of curriculum, its critical importance to the congregation's ministry becomes self-evident. The curriculum provides the pathway for believers to grow toward Christian maturity. What do believers have to know, experience, and be able to do so as to mature? What do they need along the way to guarantee their continued spiritual growth? With whom should they travel the journey of faith? The curriculum answers these questions, and gives the believer some direction, some proven paths to travel, so they are not lost along the journey of faith, wandering without direction. Curriculum is a tool of the education ministry to provide for the spiritual formation of believers (p. 2, bold emphasis added).
All of this is why I'm passionate about catechesis, and about the Brookside Institute providing a relatively systematic and comprehensive grounding in core truths of the Christian faith. But these quotes also apply more broadly across ministries of the church - curriculum is simply an intentional way to guide others towards biblical objectives of being a disciple. Good stuff!
(This is an updated version of a post I initially composed on July 22, 2014.)
I've recently gotten a few questions from people asking very specifically how they can get emails with updated posts from the Brookside Institute blog, without having to remember to check in periodically on their own. They want to stay in the loop, but they won't always remember to go looking for new content. And when they do remember, they may not be near a computer or it may not be a convenient time.
I love this question. I love it that people want to stay in the loop, and that we're providing valuable enough content that people want to stay engaged.
Here's how I respond to this question:
There's no way that I know of to get emails specifically from the Brookside Institute, providing updated content as new posts are published. (If I'm missing something on this, someone please let me know!) However that doesn't mean there's no way to conveniently stay in the loop. The solution is to subscribe to something called a "feed reader" that will collect the content (the "RSS Feed") you want from sites you subscribe to. Then, you simply monitor your feed reader and can conveniently stay up to date on the content you've chosen to subscribe to.
Below I've included some detailed steps on how to subscribe to an RSS Feed and have it collected into a feed reader. Before I get into that, though, let me briefly share WHAT an RSS Feed is and WHY subscribing to the RSS Feed can be helpful.
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