• Chris Smith

Pastor's Picks - May 2018

So these past couple of months have been crazy for me with coursework. I've been wrapping up 3 different seminary classes within the last 60 days and that means my reading time has been hijacked by the type of academic reading that I doubt many of you would find interesting. So this month, what I'm presenting to you in the Pastor's Picks are three books that shaped me during my early years in ministry and have (in my opinion) stood the test of time despite the fact that their authors have in many cases fallen out of favour in the years hence within evangelicalism. If you're going to read them this month please read the work, and not the reputation or the legacy of the writers, and I pray that you too will be blessed.

Crazy Love - Francis Chan

I read this book early in my ministry as I was preparing for my first short term missions trip to Guatemala. It is a powerful call to live out the gospel in a practical and tangible way by asking the simple question: What would happen if we really believed that Jesus loved us the way he says he does? And how would the world be different if we lived out that love ourselves? Francis Chan is a bit of a radical himself, this was his first big book (and unfortunately his last - his follow-up works never quite reached the same level of notoriety) but it was enough to propel him into evangelical superstardom. What's interesting about Chan though is that true to the ethic he espouses in this book, he saw his rise to fame as counter-productive to his ministry calling and a few years back resigned his pastorate and stepped back out of the limelight to live his life according to his values. On a related note: I loaned out my copy of this to someone, but I can't remember who. If it's you - would you mind returning it to me? Thanks! Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell

Try to suspend your opinions of Rob Bell for a second. Yes, he has done some strange things in the past number of years, and yes he has espoused some unorthodox opinions, but before he became the representation of all that is wrong with postmodern evangelicalism to the old guard in our ranks - he was one of the most innovative and dynamic evangelical communicators of his generation. Velvet Elvis was his seminal work, and while it is not perfect in all it espouses (what is?) it gets vastly more right than wrong, and it provides a fresh way of looking at our faith that frees us to engage with people and culture without becoming defensive or afraid. I still to this day, consider this one of the most formative books of Christian theology that I have read. And like all of Rob's work, it is very accessible, and very easy to engage with. Read it without fear! Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller

Don Miller is a storyteller first and foremost, and the story he is telling in Blue Like Jazz is his own story. Undoubtedly stylized to some extent, but the book is largely autobiographical. That is to say that Don Miller is not a theologian, and if you pick up Blue Like Jazz with the expectation of getting good theology about being Christian you will be sorely disappointed. It's not that Don Miller is a heretic, but just that his reflections are often short-sighted and theologically shallow. So why would I ever recommend you read this book? Because as much as his theology may be shallow and lacking, his anthropology is breathtaking. Miller in this short, and easy to read narrative, captured the pulse of my generation and the longing that many Christians my age felt for something more authentic than what they had been raised in. It is a study of humanity at its most earnest - warts and all. After reading this book you will come away with likely one of two opinions of Don Miller: Either you will love him and find that his experience resonates with you in ways that few other authors have been able to, or you will loathe him, and find him whiny, annoying, self-absorbed (while taking incessantly about the need to not be self-absorbed), and perhaps a little pathetic. But in either instance, you will have to come to terms with his honesty and the fact that his journey speaks volumes about the journey of many people in our churches, and even more people formerly in our churches. It's definitely worth a look. Check back next month for some fresh picks!

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