Category: Book Reflections

Andy Crouch in his book “The Tech-wise Family” offers strategies on how to put technology in its proper place.

His premise is based on 10 commitments (you can find them on pg. 41). Each of these are meant to help refocus on the family on each other instead of their devices. He’s not advocating the abandonment of technology, but rather to understand both their benefits and their specific drawbacks. One specific premise he has is much of today’s technology is “easy everywhere” (p.51).

Most of Crouch’s commitments make sense. We’ve implemented #8 early on (for parents to have full access to kids’ devices and spouses to have access to each other’s personal logins). However, there are others I’m not sure about. e.g. #7 suggests to make car time conversation time. To be honest, I’m not sure if that time is necessarily best used for conversations. Personally, I find that 1. many times I’m concentrating on driving (as I’m getting older, I find I need to focus more) and can’t have in-depth conversations all the time, and 2. sometimes it’s just good to have that space to decompress.

What I appreciate is Crouch reveals a reality check for his own family’s assessment with these commitments. His honesty addresses both the benefits of the commitments being fulfilled and the shortcomings in attempting them.

Crouch provides some great practical strategies in helping to put technology in its place. To paraphrase Jesus’ thoughts on sabbath: people are lord over technology, not technology lord over people.

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review.


Chap Clark expanded on his previous book “Adoptive Youth Ministry” to encompass an adoptive church. His premise is simple: all members within the church are siblings to one another, and the intention is to invite others to be part of God’s family via adoption.

As Dr. Clark points out, the language of adoption is very biblical (the appendix to the book). Many times, we use the language of “brothers and sisters in Christ”. This helps to frame what our relationship is with one another and how we work within that.

Recently, I had a youth leader ask me, “What should be our role with the students in our youth group? parent? friend? teacher?” The idea of older sibling helps to establish the appropriate boundaries between youth leader and youth. As an older sibling, we get to hang out and share life. Part of that includes some level of authority with needed and teaching at times. It also establishes that the friendship between the older and younger sibling is different than the peers of the younger sibling.

Chap offers practical insights in establishing this paradigm. (As he has now moved into a senior pastor position, I would assume he’ll be implementing these in his own context.) A worthwhile read in looking for a biblical framework not just in youth ministry but in church life.

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review.

Matt Mikalatos retells the story of Acts in a contemporary setting (e.g. what would be Dr. Lucas’ conversations with the various characters in Acts if it happened today). He doesn’t just retell the story; he delves into some of the historical and cultural nuances to add flavour and a clearer understanding of key passages. The book can be used as a  study with the discussion guide at the back.

I found Matt’s take to be refreshing. He paints a picture of the life of the 1st century church, but in its original context and how it could have been like today. His argument is the primary character in Acts is the Holy Spirit (in which the book could have been called “Acts of the Holy Spirit” vs “Acts of the Apostles”). I would recommend this book for others consideration.

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-MartinCommunications and BakerBooks in exchange for an honest review.


I started to read this book when I had a dark period of my life. When I started, it resonated deep within my soul. That feeling that sometimes God is distant, is unaware, is gone. As the title suggests, it’s as if we’re left in the dark by ourselves and no idea what to do.

Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin share their experiences in moments like these not in a flippant way. They don’t nonchalantly skim over their dark moments but allow you to dwell with them, perhaps feeling your own darkness in that time. Their answers are simple (maybe a bit too simple). Some of their reflections on scripture don’t delve into the intricacies of the issue. For example, there’s a reflection on Judas and how he basically never knew Jesus even though he did everything the disciples did (including miracles as implied). I think the context surrounding Judas is more intricate than that.

In the end, Kluck ends his section stating “it’s only natural that a book on doubt/struggle would end here. At repentance. At joy.” They are right in that in those dark moments, we don’t necessarily abandon hope, but we abandon God (not the other way around). And like most things within the Christian faith, it is simple but definitely not easy.

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Chosen Books (a division of Baker Book House Company) in exchange for an honest review.

G.K. Beale compiles this handbook on exegesis and interpreting the New Testament when the text uses an Old Testament. Don’t let the name “handbook” deceive you. It showed me how long it’s been since I’ve wandered into the realm of academia.

Much of this book was over my head. From what I can understand, Beale presents solid strategies in understanding how the New Testament writers incorporated Old Testament passages. I do appreciate his last chapter where he uses a case study to exemplify how these strategies work.

A useful book … assuming you can follow that level of academia.

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Chosen Books (a division of Baker Book House Company) in exchange for an honest review.

Dr. Michael Sedler’s book “When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up” does just that: to discern moments when silence is best and when words need to be spoken. Sedler provides fundamental reasons why one is best suited over the other in different circumstances. Yet too many times, we seem to misjudge the situation and take the wrong course of action.

Sedler’s book may seem at times seem too rudimentary. While he does provide some practical tips on how to discern when one should be used over the other, those insights are not applicable to every situation. Sedler does emphasis that: 1. when we do mess up (and we will), we must seek forgiveness and reconciliation  Sedler exemplifies this through his own experiences of “messing up”. 2. Discernment is something that one must work at and continue to work at. It doesn’t come naturally in all circumstances, so continued practice is needed.
This book is a good preliminary source for people to build their skills of discerning when to speak up or shut up. It’s a relevant book for family members, friends and colleagues.
Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Chosen Books (a division of Baker Book House Company) in exchange for an honest review.

Book Reflection: Replenish

Sometimes, we have those moments when we feel completely drained emotionally. In work terms, people call this burnout. (I don’t know what it’s called when the burnout is a result from family or friends.) It’s a moment when you’ve got nothing left in the tank, when you feel like you’re just going through the motions, and anything that requires any emotional investment is met with a heart of stone.

Lance Witt describes his own experience in his book Replenish. What makes his book very practical is each chapter is about 4-5 pages with some reflection questions afterwards. This slowed down the pacing of my reading and challenged me to take inventory in my own life with very poignant questions. The fact is, what he’s presenting isn’t rocket science. Most leaders have learned many of these principles in one media or another. Witt brings it all together in this one package that could be done well as a personal study or in a group.

As I read it, some thoughts emerged: It seems our societal lifestyle perhaps needs to take a drastic overhaul. Witt challenges pastors to be the example in this life that’s not completely rushed or filled with busyness. As pastors, I feel that many of our congregations wouldn’t really understand that change of pace. In fact, they may even feel it’s unfair if we can do that but they feel locked in their own “world” and can’t live that life. It’s one thing for pastors to exemplify it. It’s another for pastors (and church leaders) to create space for their congregants to do that, and to offer practice, tangible alternatives. Also, it may take some serious pruning, vetting what is really important in our lives vs. what we claim is important. Perhaps this is one way the church of Christ could be counter-culturally revolutionary, helping the world (or at least North American civilization) to see the life God intended.

In my opinion, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry by Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean is becoming one of the fundamental texts in youth ministry. Through their series of essays, they look at how the various parts of youth ministry require a theological frame. The fact is, everything a Christian does is based on a theological lens (whether intentional or not). Root and Dean provide a starting point for youth workers to delve into why they do what they do, from the perspective of how it reflects upon their understanding of God. Some of the topics that really intrigued me were:

  • the connection between conferences/retreats/camps to an eschatological view
  • distinguishing between short-term missions and global tourism
  • seeing the intersection of sexuality and spirituality

Within the ministry of CBOQ, while we have not figured it all out yet, it’s encouraging to me that we are on the right track in how we view compassion experiences (aka short-term missions) and other events that we host.

There were times, especially in the earlier chapters, where there was so much to reflect on that it almost took me one page a day to at least let some of it sink in. However, for those who are seriously pursuing youth ministry for the sake of His Kingdom, this is a key text to help shape one’s approach to youth ministry.

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