3 Tips For For Finding The Next Great Christian Resource!

booksHave there ever been so many Christian Books in print as now? I think not. Seemingly every day a new book, Bible study, and or instructional video is released with the seemingly magical ability to make Christendom great again. Read this, and you will be the best parent ever. Try this plan, and your besetting sin will disappear. Watch this…and well…your life will be better than ever before. And all these pleas connect with our hearts because we all want to grow closer to Christ. We all have spiritual battles. But at the end of the day, not all resources are created equal. And given the fact that few of us can devote large portions of our days to reading and studying, we do not want to squander our precious time on bad books. To determine which resources in your Christian bookstore are spiritual fool’s gold and which contain lasting truth, I encourage ask the follow three questions:

Who Published It?

Who published the book can tell you a lot about the book’s author. Obviously, all513cwpcnmjl-_sx340_bo1204203200_publishers want to sell you their books, curriculums, etc. (Hence all the marketing that often makes picking the right resources very difficult.) If an author’s books fly off the shelves, everyone wants to publish their materials. But with that being said, publishers often still have some convictions and guiding principles that narrow down their list of potential authors.

Publishers will only publish authors who reflect their view(s) of the world. For example, B&H Publishing (the publishing wing of LifeWay) and Crossway Publishing (They produce the ESV Bibles) and P&R Publishers (They publish many fantastic  theology books) make it a point to publish resources that are based on a literal and inerrant reading of the Scriptures. Publishers such as Zondervan and Tommy Nelson are a little freer with who they publish. For example, Tommy Nelson publishes books by Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) and commentaries by Dr. Thomas Schreiner (which are sound theologically and academically). And other publishers like, Faith Words –  who puts out all the Joel Osteen materials –  should simply be avoided. #FoolsGold anyone?

At the end of the day, seeing who publishes a book will not tell you everything you need to know. But it is a great starting point. Check on the publisher.

Who Endorsed It?

vertical-churchNow as a noted above, some publishers publish both good and bad authors. Just discovering who the publisher is not a fool proof. You need to explore a little more. You need to check the endorsements. If another author that you know and trust endorses the book, then you can be pretty sure the book is good. (At the very least your confidence in the book should be as great as your confidence in the one endorsing it.) If you are like me, you probably will not recognize all the names on the back of the book. I recently read Vertical Church by James McDonald (I highly recommend it). Thirty-seven people endorsed the book! The publishers want to get a wide variety of endorsements on their publication so that they can market it to the largest Christian demographic possible. That being said, do not worry about why some Anglican pastor you never heard of endorsed the book in your hand. If Dr. Albert Mohler, John MacArthur, and Paul David Tripp also endorsed that same book, it is probably one really good resources. If you don’t know any of the endorsers, that’s probably not a good sign.

Endorsements are never forced or fabricated. For example, the evangelist Greg Laurie once stretched the truth by saying John MacArthur endorsed his ministry. MacArthur quickly forced Laurie to retract the claim and to change his materials. Endorsements matter and are guarded closely by those who give them. Before you start flipping through the table of contents, check the endorsements. If people you trust stand by a publication or program, you can trust those resources. Check the endorsements.

Does Your Pastor Like It?

41gy-dowwdl-_sx313_bo1204203200_If you want to skip steps one and two, go straight to your pastor(s) and/or elder(s). Ask them, “who are your favorite authors?” Ask them to recommend books and resources that will help you.

Do not worry about bothering them. This is part of their job. They are called to lead and shepherd you, in-part by getting good resources into your hands and by protecting you from wolves in sheep’s clothing. Ask them for help! Most will love to direct you to great resources.

As a young college student, I knew I could trust C.S. Lewis, Francis Shaffer, and John Macarthur. But I did not have a clue about the other 99% of Christian literature filling the shelves of our local books stores. Thankfully, the pastors at the Bible Church of Little Rock did a great job of exposing me and that church to a host of godly authors. While at the Bible Church, I was introduced to J. I. Packer, C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, Ed Welch, Bruce Ware, Joel Beeke, and Don Whitney to name a few. I was given a solid foundation from which I could build my personal library. I hope and pray your pastors can and will do the same for you.

But if your pastor shirks this duty, I encourage you to fall back on points 1 and 2.

Alright, are you ready to pick out your next book?

3 Lessons Church Leaders Can Learn From the Emoji Bible

Emoji-BIble-BlogThe King James only crowd is finally cool again. Well at the very least, they have emojis. Earlier this week, the very first emoji Bible was released on ITunes. And it’s based on the KJV. How cool?  As the anonymous translator told one newspaper,

“I think if we were to fast-forward 100 years, an ‘emoji’ Bible of some kind would exist, so I thought, ‘Why not try and make it?

In short, the latest attempt to produce a contextualized translation of the scriptures that today’s adults can relate to has popped out an emoji Bible. If you want to try it out for yourself: click here to turn your favorite verses into the emoji translation.

While I do not think anyone has to switch over to the Emoji Bible, we do need to realize what it signifies. It signifies that our world is changing. If we hope to reach the next generation with the scriptures, we Christians must be willing to embrace social media, emojis, and whatever else comes next. Believe it or not, the Emoji Bible is targeting people between the ages of 17-35. If Millennials are speaking emoji, what will their kids be speaking?   

Now, I do not think we need to embrace emojis as a major form of biblical communication. The written word carries power that pictures cannot. The medieval church found this out the hard way. All those beautiful stained glass windows were placed in Cathedrals to help the poor understand the Bible. But those pictures lacked the gospel inspired insight of the Holy Spirit. Even today, millions of people interact with those pictures and have no clue what they really mean. God’s word is the power to salvation. No picture or group of pictures can take the place of the words found in Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew, or Romans. In many ways, appealing to emojis is not so much a leap into the future as a step back into the past. (Nothing new under the sun).  We already tried the picture book approach and should stay with the written word. But at the end of the day, I am not too concerned about the Emoji Bible’s effect on biblical translation. As Christ said, in Matthew 5:18,

4 truly, i say 2 u, until ✨✨✨ & 🌎 pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

3 Lesson

 The Emoji Bible represents that our culture is reachable if we are willing to be fluid and creative. Again, I am not talking about doctrine or about the scriptures. God’s word is God’s word in every age.  

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever – Heb. 13:8.

I am discussing our methods of communication. Here our three things the Emoji Bible teaches us:

1. We can connect with our culture

Did you notice that Emoji Bible was not published by Lifeway, Zondervan, or Crossway?  It was self-published. The days of taking years and months to respond to change are over. Anyone can communicate at any time. As the church, we need to embrace our technological world. We need to blog, host video conferences, and tweet. We need to be willing to quickly and thoughtfully engage our culture. If we wait till Sunday and Wednesday to influence people, we will reach fewer and fewer men and women. We need to be ready to spontaneously connect with the world around us as needs arise.

2.We need to be embrace to change

As I said earlier, I do not think the Emoji bible is a bible emoji 1huge step in the development of Bible translations. But it is a great attempt at going with the culture. And we need to learn from its author. We need to seek to reach people where they are and with their language. If everyone is on Instagram or Snapchat, then we should go to Instagram and Snapchat. If people start communicating primarily through Facebook live streaming, then we should start live streaming. The Emoji Bible is showing us that we need to be willing to let the tools of yesteryear fade. Instead pridefully clinging to what has worked, we need to embrace the spontaneity of this generation and our kids’ generation. We need to be willing to change.

3.We need to be creative

I know the Emoji Bible is not a great work of art. I know it’s not going to be placed in the Louvre anytime soon. But it is super creative. People are talking about it because it represents out of the box thinking. It represents creativity. It represents something new. We and the people in our churches need to be creative. We need to be finding new ways to communicate the amazing story of the gospel. It’s not boring. Our God’s not boring. We need to reflect God’s character when we communicate the word.

Final Thoughts

I do not know what language our kids will speak. But I am sure of this: to reach kids, to reach this current generation of millennials with the gospel, we must embrace the methodology behind the Emoji Bible. We must seek to reach our culture by being willing to change and by embracing creativity!