Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Postmodern Evangelism

Collectively, as God’s church, many of our attempts at evangelism have fallen short and, as a result, we’ve pushed those we were trying to minister to further from God’s kingdom. In our postmodern culture, old evangelism methods that treated people more like projects than people loved dearly by Christ, should be scrutinized carefully.

I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus
(InterVarsity Press) is an attempt to explore the journey young people take as they move closer to, and hopefully fully accept, God’s call on their life. Authors Don Everts and Doug Schaupp have years of experience ministering on college campuses. They began noticing a cultural shift taking place. College students they were ministering to were coming to faith in mysterious, even unthinkable and completely unfamiliar ways. Yet many of their stories had much in common. There seemed to be five distinct markers along the journey people were making on their path to Christ. Everts and Schaupp call these markers the five thresholds. At each threshold there are certain hurdles that need to be cleared as the Holy Spirit works to bring home the lost.

The beauty of recognizing these thresholds is it allows us to identify where each individual is on their journey toward the kingdom. We can then minister to them where they are. Everts and Schaupp not only describe the thresholds, but offer suggestions on how to help non-Christian friends cross each one. Credit also goes to the authors for realizing that once the fifth threshold (“entering the kingdom”) has been crossed, the journey in many ways has just begun. New Christians need to be supported, prayed for, mentored and ministered to as well. This book will prove to be a valuable read for college ministers and those who work closely with today’s young adults.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Discovering Purpose

Over the course of my 30-plus years in ministry, one of the most exciting trends I’ve sensed is the growing interest of the lost in being found. When talking to people about my faith, I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer respond with disengaged apathy. The good news is that more and more are responding with a posture of engaged skepticism when confronted with the Good News.

Charles Drew, pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in New York City, has given us a wonderfully engaging overview of the answer to the world’s deep hunger in his book, A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World (P&R Publishing). Rooted in a proper historical-redemptive understanding of the unfolding drama God has given us in His Word, A Journey Worth Taking is an accessible book that Christians can put in the hands of their non-believing and/or skeptical friends—both young and old alike. Drew masterfully lays out God’s story and the place we’ve been created to take in it. After explaining the Creation and Fall, Drew invites readers to consider the wonderful message of Redemption that will ultimately conclude with Glorification and the ushering in of the new Heaven and new Earth.

People love a story. Everyone knows at some level that he or she is involved in a larger story, and is actually an unfolding story themselves. Drew does the spiritually confused a favor by gathering up scattered puzzle pieces of their lives, then putting them together in the magnificent mural that makes sense of life because it’s a picture of God’s big story. But don’t for a minute think A Journey Worth Taking is only for the unredeemed. For Christian readers, this book is a way out of the misunderstanding and theological shallows that mark so much of the church in today’s world. It can facilitate a serendipitous “aha!” moment for Christians and non-Christians alike.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Deep Discount for Deep Church Audio!

Not only did Jim Belcher’s book Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional win an impressive CPYU Bookshelf Book of the Year Award, but it also won similar awards by Hearts & Minds Booknotes and Christianity Today. We would like to celebrate Jim’s great book with all of our faithful Bookshelf readers and fans of CPYU!

For a limited time (expires March 1, 2010) you can download the Deep Church audio book from Christianaudio for only $2.98.

Click here to learn more
and be sure to use the discount code: DEEPCPYU

Click here to read an interview with Jim Belcher.

What others are saying about Deep Church:

"A marvelously reliable guide—indeed I know of none better—for our much-needed efforts to go deeper as churches by mining the depths of the gospel for creative and faithful ministry in the strange and exciting new world of the twenty-first century."—from the foreword by Richard J. Mouw, president, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Jim Belcher shows that we don't have to choose between orthodox evangelical doctrine on the one hand, and cultural engagement, creativity and commitment to social justice on the other. This is an important book."—Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

"Deep Church takes us beyond just the surface with what is emerging, emergent or traditional and gives us some wonderful insights toward an alternative future."—Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church

"Deep Church is a thoughtful, helpful and practical addition to the growing field of missional church thinking."—Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle

"Smart, passionate, thoughtful, hopeful and Jesus-centered... Lots of people are going to find this book very helpful."—Rob Bell, pastor, Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids

"Deep Church is the book we need. Jim Belcher is poised like no other to evaluate the emerging movement...There are only two or three really good books about the emerging movement, and this is the best analysis I've seen."—Scot McKnight, North Park University

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Our Branding-Obsessed World

Did you know that the sound of your car’s turn signal is actually branded by the car manufacturer? Or that companies are paying top dollar to have “product placement” in novels? Or that even the scent of most stores is uniquely selected because scent has been shown to influence consumer behavior and to increase sales? In his fascinating book, Obsessive Branding Disorder: The Illusion of Business and the Business of Illusion (Public Affairs), Lucas Conley exposes the branded world in which we live. Conley believes there is “a global branding disorder that stands to shift human nature radically, perverting our definition of community and shaping our sense of self.”

Conley notes that “we’re branded, quite literally, from cradle to grave.” With so many products competing for consumer dollars, many brands spend more money on marketing than on improving products. Marketers now know that “price is a rational purchasing consideration and brand an emotionally driven one,” so the key is to trigger people’s emotions. What’s more, “branding’s most fervent gurus celebrate the best brands for their capacity to establish themselves firmly in our hearts and minds. Our relationships with our dearest brands, they argue, ought to resonate on a spiritual level.” Conley laments, “Branding is corrupting our culture by heralding emotion over reason, surface over core substance and packaging over experience.”

Unfortunately, Conley doesn’t seem to write out of religious conviction. The concluding chapter on how to respond lacks substance or even awareness of how religious communities can navigate a branded world. But that shouldn’t keep us from reading this book. It is very readable, and full of statistics and quotes that can serve as good conversation starters for anyone interested in how marketing affects young people.

--Derek Melleby