Book Recommendations

How do people come to faith? The way you begin to answer this question explains a lot about who you think people are and the way God works in their hearts to bring them to faith. So often the way Christians approach this question is by way of theory and method, comparing ideas and what they think will “work best.”

While it is certainly important for us to brainstorm with others or compare ideas to refine our ability to share the gospel, many Christians get stuck in the world of theories and never move into the realm of real relationships with real people. The result is a lot of hypothetical evangelism which forgets about the complexity of sharing life with flesh and blood friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

This is why I have long been grateful for the work of Randy Newman. In his first book Questioning Evangelism, Randy presented the task of evangelism as less of a theory and more of an art. He showed us how the work of the evangelist involves real conversations with real people – meaning we actually need to come into contact with real people and engage them in conversations using good questions and plain speech.

In his newest book Unlikely Converts: Improbable Stories of Faith and What They Teach Us About Evangelism, Randy shares real stories that help us see the dynamic and supernatural means God can use to bring people to repentance and faith. The way he weaves real stories, biblical exposition, and practical applications helps us to avoid mere theory while sharing lessons that translate into the everyday life of Christians.

How do people come to faith? Using his concept of pre-evangelism, Randy tells us people tend to come to faith in four ways: gradually, communally, variously, and supernaturally. Continue Reading

One of the things I love most about living in the DMV area is its incredible diversity. Because of its rich opportunity for employment, we attract people from every country and culture to come and be a part of the life that we make together. This creates an exciting environment of vocational diversity. In the churches where I have served, I have witnessed a beautiful fellowship of different people who, on account of their careers and cultural backgrounds, would ordinarily never gather together. But having been united by their faith in Christ, churches in the DMV become this fascinating intersection of people in different vocations coming together for a common purpose and mission.

But there is a darker, challenging side to this diversity. I often meet Christians who are really struggling to maintain their faith in their work. Many believers find themselves put in situations where they feel that they must compromise their faith in order to faithfully carry out their jobs. I’ve met teachers who are uncomfortable with new curriculum that is being introduced to the students, government officials who recognize the unethical shortcuts being taken in their offices, marketers who know their employer’s products are immoral, and businesswomen who work in very toxic and draining environments. This leads many of them to wonder: is this what God has called me to? Is it possible to be a faithful Christian in this space? Or do I need to leave and find new work altogether? Continue Reading

The pool is open, and summer is almost upon us! Whatever stage of life you may find yourself in, I hope the next few months for you will give you the opportunity to rest, take a break, and enjoy some good weather and even better company. But I also want to encourage you to use some time this summer to grow and challenge yourself in new ways. One of the best ways to do that is through reading. Not only do you expose yourself to new people and ideas, but you also become a better reader of Scripture, which in turn can help you become like Jesus.

If you’re looking for good books to read this summer, allow me to recommend to you 10 books that I think would be of great value to you. While anyone could benefit from these books, I have the church members in mind who I have the privilege of pastoring at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church. Each of these books can be loosely categorized under a broad heading of community. For those of you who call Shady Grove your home, I want us to grow together in becoming a family that can only be explained by the gospel of God’s grace to us in Christ. I believe these books can help us do that.

I do have your summer vacations in mind with these books! I’ve tried to choose books that won’t take you too terribly long to read, that are engaging and well-written, and will leave a lasting impact on you. So whether you’re having a staycation or heading to the beach, take one or two of these books along. Continue Reading

Nietzsche once famously said that someone who knows their ‘why’ in life can endure any ‘how.’

For thousands of years, mankind’s answer to ‘why’ was a given. There were immanent and physical meanings for our lives: the survival of my family, the flourishing of my tribe, etc. But there were also transcendent ones: we understood in one way or another that life was structured in some way by a powerful Spiritual Being(s) who gave purpose and meaning to life under the Sun.

In most cases, the immanent meanings of life were directly tied to transcendent meaning. For many pagan religions, the prosperity of one’s family or tribe was intimately bound with one’s service to the tribal gods. In the case of Judeo-Christian monotheism, our morals, values, ethics and flow out of an understanding of the imago Dei: the image of God. Mankind’s purpose in this view is understood to come from a direct reflection of who God is. Who He is, we ought to be.

For most of human history, it was this combination of transcendent and immanent meanings which provided the ‘why’ for all of human life. Yet within the last few hundred years, our understanding of meaning, value and purpose has changed drastically. With the changes that followed in the Scientific Revolution, mankind began to acquire unprecedented power. It wasn’t before too long that a new idea popped into our heads. What if we aren’t made in the image of God, but we actually have the power to remake nature in our image instead? The imago Dei was replaced by imago Homo, and nothing has ever been the same since. Continue Reading