My Best Books Of 2019. . . Part 1. . .

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is “that time of year” for my annual mention of the some of the best books I read during the prior 12 months. It’s my hope that the books that have impacted me might be picked up by others and used to shape, mold, and even entertain them. My selections aren’t necessarily critically-acclaimed books all published in the last year, but rather, books new and old that are among those I’ve endeavored to tackle during 2019. In fact, one of my selections was first published in 1652! There are others I’ve read this past year which could be included in my list, but since I’ve limited it to a total of ten books there are some very good and helpful books that are being left out.  So. . . here we go. . . in no special order. . . I’ll give you five today, and five more in my next post. . .

I’ll begin with one that was a daily companion throughout 2019. Nancy Guthrie’s The One Year Praying Through The Bible For Your Kids was part of my morning routine each and every day. Guthrie is an excellent Bible teacher and she has a passion for helping parents apply the Gospel to everyday living. Each day features a Scripture passage followed by Guthrie’s practical commentary, finishing up with a prayer readers can pray for their own children. Even though my own four children are adults, I was encouraged and shaped in my role as someone who is both a parent of adults and a grandparent to five young grandchildren. The book does not offer simple formulas and easy methodologies. Rather, Guthrie equips parents to see how the Gospel is at play in our kids’ lives along with pointing us to a deep faith and trust in the God of covenant promises. Youth workers. . . this is a book to put in the hands of every parent in your ministry.

During July of 2019, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first man landing on the moon. At the time, I was a 12-year-old kid who had lived through the change-filled decade of the 1960s who was headed into living out his teenage years in the decade that was to follow, the 70s. I was aware that the summer of ’69 as well as the two summers prior were full of all kinds of upheaval and cultural developments. I decided that this summer, 50 years later, I would re-familiarize myself with 1969 by picking up Rob Kirkpatrick’s book, 1969: The Year Everything Changed. The book’s text-heavy cover recounts many of the iconic events of that year, including happenings in the news, in sports, and in the world of popular culture. This is a book that will refresh the memories of those who lived through 1969, and set the context of life in today’s world and how we got here for those who have lived after.

Just about two years ago I developed ringing in my ears. It’s been steady, but I’ve been able to manage it. The cause? I’m not sure. But I’m guessing that it’s partially due to the constant stream of loud music I began listening to, well, back in 1969! On a recent episode of NPR’s Fresh Air, host Terry Gross interviewed writer David Owen, who this year released his book, Volume Control: Hearing In A Deafening World. In the interview, Owen recounted how developing ringing in his ears launched him on a quest for knowledge and a cure. Eventually, Owen jumped into a kind of hearing-loss rabbit hole, resulting in a fascinating book all about the ear, how it works, what contributes to various types of hearing difficulties, along with information on the technologies being developed to overcome hearing loss. While Owen doesn’t write from a perspective of Christian faith, his writing bears testimony to the glory of God and the complexity of His creation . . . along with how divine image-bearers are using their gifts and skills to remedy the ways in which creational brokenness has effected hearing. One side note on this book. . . it really has me thinking about the significant long-term damage we are doing to our kids and to ourselves through high volume worship sets. Something to think about, for sure.

I’m not much for leadership books. Whenever I pick one up it seems like the same old thing re-hashed, perhaps with a new face thanks to some kind of catchy metaphor from the animal kingdom. While attending a conference at our church last June, there was a title on the book table that caught my eye: The Heart Of A Servant Leader: Letters From Jack Miller. It was the author of the letters that grabbed my interest. The late Jack Miller was a pastor in the Philly area who was the father-in-law of a youth pastor peer of mine back in the mid 1980s. I’m familiar with a host of ministry folks who were in one way or another mentored by Jack Miller during their own formative years, including people like Tim Keller, Paul Tripp, and Scotty Smith. Always looking for older and wiser mentors to speak into my own life, I bought the book. And each day for a couple of months I read and pondered one of the letters. Miller offers counsel on relationships, ministry issues, dealing with one’s own sin, spiritual warfare, the sufferings of life, and resolving conflict. It did not disappoint. . . . not one bit. My copy is dog-eared and underlined. . . and I will be returning to it time and time again.

Finally, there’s what has turned out to be the best youth ministry book I’ve read in the last 5 years. . . Mark Matlock and David Kinnaman’s Faith For Exiles: 5 Ways For A New Generation To Follow Jesus In Digital Babylon. My four decades in youth ministry have been marked by increased justifiable concern over the decline in spiritual maturity, knowledge, commitment, and vitality among our youth group graduates. I’ve long had more than just suspicions about the perfect storm of causal factors, and my friends Matlock and Kinnaman have not only confirmed those suspicions, but offered clear and direct responses and strategies the church and family must employ in order to turn the tide on this distressing failure. Every pastor, parent, and youth worker should be reading this book and implementing changes. . . including the destruction of some of our most closely-held ministry sacred cows. If you’d like to read and discuss this book in community over the next two months, get in on our Facebook CPYU Reading/Discussion Group where over 500 people are reading together! And, in case you want to learn more, listen to our Youth Culture Matters Podcast interview with Mark Matlock about the book. . .

There’s my first five. Stay tuned for the rest in my next post.



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