Summer is coming. You can feel it. You’ve got the tires on the camper pumped up and ready to go. You’ve made sure all the kids have bathing suits and sandals. You’ve got a whole shelf of bug repellent, sun screen, and water bottles ready to go. Summer is coming. You can’t wait for the break from work and the hope of another adventure. Dreams of tubing, fishing, tanning, hiking, and sleeping fill your head. Summer is coming.
Beaches, camping trips, stay-cations, mountain passes, and extended time together as a family are all great. But as you approach this summer let me encourage you to add another dimension to the conversation. How do you want to grow this summer? Most of us have already begun to gather the necessary tools for our summer adventures. Frisbee? Check. Beach towels? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Why not add some resources to help us grow in our pursuit of Christ?
Step back. Think about an area you may want to grow in and find some good resources to help you. Perhaps you want to understand the metanarrative of Scripture more. You might want to grow in your prayer life, understand financial stewardship, or methods of sharing the gospel. Determine an area you want to grow and get some trustworthy resources to help you in that endeavor. If you want some guidance in a particular area, ask your pastor. That’s the kind of conversation that will make their day.
Here are some resources I would recommend that seem fit for summer reading. They are all short, powerful, and will serve you well wherever you are in your walk with Christ.
Mack Stiles has been a church planter and entrepreneur in the Middle East. He’s engaging in person and in print and it’s hard to be apathetic when he talks about evangelism. This short book in the 9Marks series is a wonderful introduction to thinking through evangelism in the context of the local church.
Stiles addresses practical questions many consider: Do I need to have the gift of evangelism to share the gospel? Can I share the gospel without words? How does evangelism relate to discipleship? What is the gospel?
The book has two primary strengths:
First, it emphasizes the necessity of sharing the biblical gospel. “Unbiblical evangelism is a method of assisted suicide for a church, so there is much at stake in getting evangelism right.” (39) It’s tempting to shy away from sharing the challenging components of the gospel. It’s easy to rest our confidence in unbiblical means and methods of evangelism rather than God’s work to bring someone from death to life through a faithful exposition of the Good News of Jesus Christ. The gospel creates the church; we must get it right.
Secondly, the book highlights the beauty of a church where evangelism becomes part of the culture. Stiles points to text after text to demonstrate that evangelism was something the early church was involved in as a community. Looking at the church at Philippi he will write: “They all pulled together for the gospel. Everyone was on game.” Many of us fail to reach out with the good news because we’re failing to look at it as a community endeavor. When the church as a whole begins to see evangelism as God’s call upon the church we will pray together for the salvation of the lost, rejoice when we see the gospel take root, lament for those who have not believed, and spur one another on towards communicating the life-giving message of God’s Son.
There are many books on evangelism out there. They are not all equal. Evangelism is a great place to begin thinking through what the gospel is and how the church is called to communicate it.
This is one of those books that should be required reading for every Christian. Originally an essay, it is often published with other works by the Oxford Don. Lewis believed that joy should be a mark of the Christian. Sadly, however he thinks too many of us either do not possess it, or are on a chase to get it, following a target that is ephemeral. The opening pages entice the reader to begin a quest that will not disappoint:
“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (26)
Lewis compels us to cast aside a stoic vision for life, devoid of joy, anticipation of reward, and wonder at the glory Christ has achieved. The Weight of Glory is the perfect book to read when things begin to feel mundane and deep down you know you’ve lost the sight of the wonder that is yours in Christ.
The late John Webster was a British theologian who entered into glory several years ago. He has the rare gift of being able to convey biblical doctrine in a personal and accessible manner. My only regret is that I was not introduced to him earlier in life. This book is a collection of sermons he gave. Each sermon can be read in around 15 minutes, leaving an effect on the soul that far outlasts the reading.
When obedience to Christ is discussed in Christian circles it easily falls into a “grin and bear it” kind of disposition. We know following Christ will be hard, and we may not like where it takes us, but we must follow the call because God is God. This is true. But perhaps it is an incomplete truth. Following Christ is not only a matter of cost. In his sermon, “Listen to Him” Webster describes obedience much more poignantly:
“Listening means obedience, and obedience is not craven submission; it’s not born of fear. Obedience to God is the lifelong task of giving consent to the shape which God has for my life. Obedience is letting God put me in the place where I can be the sort of person I am made by God to be. I come to see what that kind of person this is when I stop trying to be in charge of myself, and instead acknowledge that God is my Lord, that I can only be myself if I walk in his ways.” (96)
This slight turn transforms the way we understand Christ’s call on our lives, safeguarding His glory, magnifying His love, and demonstrating our incredible need for Him. Webster is able to do this again and again in this collection of sermons. Reading 1-2 a week for the summer would be a rewarding experience.
Summer is coming. Before you know it the day will arrive. And before you know it the day will end and we’ll be celebrating fall foliage. Invest in making sure this summer leaves a lasting mark on your life and that of those you love.
(If you are interested in one of these books, several copies will be available in the foyer the first Sunday of June.)