In the back of all my journals I keep a list of the books I’ve read while writing that particular journal. I do that because other than the places I travel to and the people I meet, nothing else shapes my life like the books I read. Someone once said, “We are what we read.” With that in mind, let me suggest three books that have shaped me and my understanding of what it means to Love God, Love People and Follow Jesus:
The first is a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Crazy Love is a jarring book and one of my favorites! It’s an alarm clock for the sleeping church to wake up and fall in love with God all over again. Chan takes his readers through an honest look at the lukewarm Christianity that prevails in many churches today and then does a great job of showing us what it looks like instead to be crazy in love with God. Chan raises the bar of expectation by saying, “Lukewarm people call ‘radical’ what Jesus expected of all His followers.” I have done several studies based on this book with high school students and adults and it has always sparked a spirited conversation and serious introspection. A word of caution: Don’t read this if you don’t want to be challenged. But if your spiritual life seems stagnant and your love for God seems less like a honeymoon and more like a job offer in Siberia, then you might want to check it out (in fact you’d be crazy not to).
The Second book is The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. In this book Stearns asks the question, What if? What if being a Christian was more than just loving God? What if it also meant loving people. Our gospel is bigger than God sending Jesus to save me. If it doesn’t also include Jesus sending us to love our neighbors, then it is an incomplete gospel; it has a hole in it. As president of world vision, Stearns has traveled extensively to the poorest of the poor around the world. He has seen the injustice, the desperate, the sick and the lost. In this book Stearns shares his own journey and takes you with him into the streets of Uganda and the slums of India to remind us that Jesus gave us all a mission. He does a fantastic job of explaining the challenges and complexity of rescuing a hurting world and then casts a strong vision for churches to bring the kingdom of heaven here on earth. He pushes us to let go of the sometimes selfish status quo of church and take up a radical responsibility as stewards of the kingdom and God’s love.
The last book is by Kyle Idleman and its called Not A Fan. This book asks the question, “Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus?” Fans sit safely in the sanctuary, er um… stands, cheering and admiring Jesus, but they know nothing of the sacrifice of following Him. Fans know all about Jesus but don’t actually know Him personally. The point? Jesus doesn’t want fans, He wants followers. Idleman challenges us to consider what it really means to call yourself a follower of Jesus and then asks us to take an honest look at ourselves and our relationship with Christ. This book reminds us that anyone can become a follower of Jesus but it will cost you everything. It’s more than just going to church and wearing a cross, it is being the church and taking up your cross daily and following after Him.
Johns Creek Baptist Church