Here are my top ten reads of the year. You can listen to my list for 2020 here and you can read my lists for 2018 & 2019 here.
Educated by Tara Westover
With by Skye Jethani
Find Your Leadership Voice by Kadi Cole
Winning the War in Your Mind by Craig Groeschel
Permission to Grieve by Shelby Forsythia
Radiant Church by Tara Beth Leach
Soundtracks by Jon Acuff
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The Politics of Jesus by John Yoder
The Practice by Seth Godin
Bonus: The Rise And Fall of Mars Hill (podcast)
It was 1992 and I was a new Christian. I had recently had a spiritual awakening and come to saving faith in Christ. (You can read about it here) A friend gave me two CD albums. Those are the things right between cassettes and mp3s in case you are too young to remember. One album was Steve Green’s “Hymns: A Portrait of Christ” and the other one was Rich Mullin’s “Songs“. Two classics for different reasons.
I did not grow up in the Church and my only faith background is Catholic. As Catholics, we had our own hymnal and our own set of hymns. My favorites were “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” and “On Eagle’s Wings”. All my Protestant friends need these two songs in their life. You can thank me later.
But here I was a new Believer and my friend wanted to introduce me to classic Protestant hymns. Steve Green helped me to fall in love with a different part of the Christian family tree, but especially “And Can it Be”. Note to worship leaders: please stop skipping the best verse. Sincerely, converts everywhere!
Thankfully, my friend was also an adult convert. He had come to faith a few years before me and we shared a similar taste in music. So he thought I would appreciate Rich Mullins. In my ignorance of all things Evangelical, I had no idea that Rich Mullins was considered controversial. It still makes me laugh.
Mullins was brilliant!
Lyrics for We’re Not as Strong as We Think We are
Well, it took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are and they say that one day Joshua
Made the sun stand still in the sky
But I can’t even keep these thoughts of you from passing by
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are We are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are
There is no doubt that he was a prophet for the Church. His gift of music ability, his insight of scripture, and his ability to articulate truth in a compelling and comprehensible way was far ahead of his time. Mullins was a prophet and a pioneer, and the Church wasn’t ready for it.
The Church never seems ready. We were not ready for Elijah, Elisha, or Micah. We were not ready for Ezekiel or Hezekiah or John the Baptist. We were not even ready for the Savior! And, 2000 years later, we are still blind and deaf on our best days. Vulgar and foolish on our worst days.
Where are all the Rich Mullins of the 21st century? It feels like we’ve given up. When I remember these two artists and listen to them, the message is the same. Love God, love your neighbor. Put away the old self and put on the new self of Christ. Why have we made it so complicated? Why is it all about lights, performance, and fancy clothes (or ripped jeans)? Have we trashed the Gospel along the way? Is it even good news anymore?
In 1992, those two albums and the lyrics of the songs gave words that my soul was struggling to express. I played them so much that I broke my CD player. All I wanted was to tell the world how much God had changed my life, but especially my heart.
I saw others who were broken and I knew there was One who could help them heal. There was One who could open doors and make a way when there seemed to be no way. There was One who cared about the broken, the poor, the oppressed, and those disregarded. We’re so busy trying to be right that we have forgotten to be righteous. And I am part of the “we”.
Where are the Rich Mullins of the 21st Century who give words that our souls are struggling to express? I know they are out there hiding in the shadows. Maybe they are waiting for us to remember that the Good News is good.
Welcome back, friends! Whoa, it’s been awhile. Let’s talk about church planting models and assessment centers. Check out the links below, especially Pastor Ellis Benton’s podcast, The Nazarene Church Planting Podcast.
The Nazarene Church Planting Podcast
Dynamic Church Planting International (DCPI)
Stadia Church Planting
Fresh Expression Books
A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture that Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing