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A conversation partner | Wesley & Student Ministry


A conversation partner | Wesley & Student Ministry
(a book review)

A fellow I crossed paths with quite a few years ago recently contacted me about reviewing a book he wrote on student ministry and John Wesley. My first thoughts was… I like student ministry, I like John Wesley and I really like free books! SURE!
Now I guess I should confess that it wasn’t all that recently. I’m a bit behind on writing this little ditty here. Sorry Jeremy! But the good news… the book is available, go buy a few copies!!! Tell em’ Erik sent you.

So here’s the review…

Lost_Soul_YMTo have a conversation partner who helps you think through how what you believe shapes what you do is an extremely value thing. Youth pastors often get pretty stuck in the rut of just making it happen; programs, events, small groups, mission trips and a million other things. I speak as one such youth pastor. Often the why can get buried in dust kicked up by the doing. To have a few people that are continually calling you back to the why of ministry is really important. In this this book Jeremy is offering himself to fill a bit of that space for anyone who has been shaped by the beauty and truth of John Wesley’s theological contribution. (And to say practical theology is redundant but if you’re into Wesley much you already know that.

Bottom line, if you like Wesley and if you work with students you’ll like this book. So pick up a few copies and let Jeremy lead your student ministry staff and volunteers in a conversation about the real Wesleyan soul of student ministry!

That was my Amazon review, I would add that I especially enjoyed a couple of the grace sections. To talk about how prevenient grace and the means of grace can and should be a reminder that God is always and already at work, taking pressure off youth workers and rather inviting us to create spaces and places for that grace to be encountered. I love the vision and invitation we get from Wesley’s understanding of Grace and Jeremy helps us remember that we are simply participating in the grace that is always and already wooing and working on all of us.

I do think there were a couple chapters where he was stretching it a bit or maybe trying a little to hard. His contribution about John Wesley’s class meetings and bands is good but not unique. I would love some more source material and resources around this.  But no doubt thinking about how Wesley structured his ministry is helpful for the church and specifically youth ministry. And the book ended strong as well. The missional nature of Wesley’s theology, the constant impulse to be on the go alongside God’s grace, to be living in a way that is for the world is strong and Jeremy does well at highlighting that this and challenging the youth worker to embrace this.

My cirque is minimal, this is a good book. At first read I was bit unsure of the title but I get, I think. The soul is all about our desires and impulse, it’s about what is deep, at the center of a person. The soul (and I would add the heart, if we were speaking in OT terms) is root of all our actions.  My soul often feels buried by my to-do list. This book and John Wesley are both great partners in caring for the soul as we participate in the mission of God for the sake of the world.

You can pick up the book here.
And read more about the author, Jeremy Steele here. Or read his tweets. Or his blog.



2013 Year In Review 2.0 — BOOKS


Looking back on 2013 and the books I took in is aways an interesting thing. It often reflects many of the things God has taught me and many of the ways I’ve grown. 2013 was the year of the Audio book for me. I’ve never really been into audio books but the more I listen the more I like, and i’ve listened to some pretty stellar audio books this year.

Here is my top 5 (READ)

#1. A Spirituality of Living by Henri Nouwen
I’ve read this book before but busted it out to go through it with some interns and other folks. I’m pretty sure I read through it twice in this processes and it really is great. It’s short and clear and encouraging. Pick it up!

#2. New Monasticism by Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove
I’m really drawn to monastic spirituality. A slow, centered, focused way of following Jesus and living as your true self. That will be reflected by what i’ve read. This is more of the pop version of monasticism but it’s pretty good. I’m not naturally a slow and calm person, I think that is what is so compelling about this way of life to me. JW Hartgrove gives a great modern day communal interpretation of this way of life.

#3. Who Told You That You Were Naked by John Jacob Raub
Raub is a Trappist monk in Kentucky. This book (which I will admit I haven’t finish yet) is pretty challenging to some of my assumption but it pretty amazing. A call not to fear or judge and to ultimately living freely in light of a loving God. I need to finish it. I’m almost there.

#4. Our Favorite Sins by Todd Hunter
Todd is my bishop so I might be slightly parietal but he’s awesome! And this book is pretty good. It’s might not blow your mind but how he connects everyday life and temptation to the prayerful and disciplined way of life is really great. I needed to read this book. It was very good!

#5. Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries
I am REALLY not a systems guy when it come to ministry. But this book is a great little ditty that helps make sense of systems and their importance. Really glad I read it.

Honorable mentions :: Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Francis of Assisi by John Kruse, Meditation and Contemplation An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, This Is My Beloved Son: The Transfiguration of Christ by Andreopoulos, Andreas

Here is my top 5 (LISTENED)

#1. The Art of Letting Go by Richard Rohr
This blows everything else out of the water that i’ve read or listened to. It was really amazing. I don’t think it’s an actual book but it is WELL worth your time to listen to. No doubt I will listen to it again.

#2. Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson
Fascinating. SUPER long to listen to but it was worth it.

#3. The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
Scot frames the gospel conversation in a way that I believe to be super helpful and holistic. I really enjoyed it. One of those book where you feel like someone way smarter than you is put some of things you thought into words in a way you probably never could have.

#4. Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road by Brian McLaren
I told some folks I liked this book and it made them nervous. I think need this book, I did. I didn’t agree with it all but I know that i need to learn how to talk and respect people of other faiths. Not to diminish our differences but to hold them up and still love and respect one another. Jesus would have had a glass of wine with Mohammed and the Buddha, they probably would have had a great conversation. I’d like to think that they would have become Christians but that’s probably not the point. 😉

#5. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes
Another great but REALLY long book. I guess some scholarship has come out saying this book is pretty flawed in some what it says but it was a really entertaining listen, great story. I would like to think Bonhoeffer was more of a pacifist and I guess that is was the new scholarship says but regardless it was a good listen.

Honorable mentions :: Insurrection by Peter Rolins, 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, Quitter by John Acuff, Love Wins by Rob Bell (for the second time)



Am I Dangerous Enough // Dietrich Bonhoeffer


I just finished listening to the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was inspiring on many levels; intellectually, spiritually and on a praxis level.

Just to real how committed and intelligent Bonhoeffer was is pretty amazing. I often wish i was smarter but then i hear about a guy like Bonhoeffer and it makes me realize just how much smarter i wish i was. He was seriously committed to learning and growing and participating in intellectual spiritual conversations and growth. He did this even when his life took him the way of the pastor rather than the academic. One thing i have attempted to do every since college has been to always be reading something a little on the headier side. I’m reading a book by Andreas Andreopoulos on the Transfiguration right now. Not academic but a little beefier than your average Christian pop-culture book (i’m reading a couple of those as well). But yea, Bonhoeffer inspires in this way.

Often pastors and academics get smart and theologically robust in their thinking but lose the personal edge to their salvation. Bonhoeffer was far from this. Despite his intellect he engaged in the pursuit of God’s will for his life in a truly inspiring way. Each major decision in his life was thought over and prayed about. It wasn’t a shallow evangelical pursuit of God’s will but rather a robust, thoughtful pursuit of what and where God was leading him. I want that in my own own life. Not to worry over the parking spot i pick but also not assuming God inspired my pick of jobs or destinations when i never even stopped to pray and seek His help.

And praxis. This is putting your faith into action. Not letting blanket morals and standards govern your life but instead engaging God in a real world, letting him form thoughts and opinions and ultimately letting God shape and form all the functions and living of your life. Your living actually being shaped by the living, resurrected Christ, this is the most impressive characteristic of Bonhoeffer.

One of the questions i began to think about toward the end of the book was this, “Am i dangerous enough?” Bonhoeffer was sidetracked and eventually killed because he was dangerous to the evil in his world. His life, ministry, preaching, living and service was all a dangerous participation in the Kingdom of God. Every day he lived and every breath he breathed was a furthering of God’s kingdom here on Earth. To the evil in our world Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a massively dangerous man. I’m not that dangerous. That kind makes me sad. It challenges me to think about how i can, even if in little ways be dangerous to the evil in my world. Maybe it’s the evil of consumerism,  selfishness, nationalism or business. There are evils i could be dangerous to but most times i fail. I want to find ways, small and big to be more dangerous as i participate in the prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Here are a few of the things i marked / noted as i was listening to this great book…

“Kierkegaard says, ‘man belongs either to the or the moral or the artistic type.’ But he did not know of this house (the Bonhoeffer house) because it formed a harmony of both.” [ Chapter 2 ]

Bonhoeffer disagreed with one of his more liberal friends but appreciate his pursuit of truth. “Anyone on the side of truth was a compatriot to be lauded.” This generous theology is one that i love and one that isn’t found often in the American church. Bonhoeffer thought you should be able to argue and differ both civilly and productively in the pursuit of God. I agree. [ Chapter 8 ]

“I pray that God will give me the strength not to take up a weapons.” Some people see Bonhoeffer as a pacifist and other don’t. But it was his extremely nuanced ethics that keep him from these categories. And it was statements like this that push him into the category of the non-violent for sure. [ Section 2 chapter 7 — Chapter 21 ]

“I think i am right in saying i will only achieve true inner clarity and honesty by really starting to take The Sermon on the Mount seriously. Here alone is the force that can blow this idiocy sky high like fireworks, leaving only a few burned out shells behind.  The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to The Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.” Yea, that’s just good! [ Section 2 chapter 8 — Chapter 22 ]

“Theological work and real pastoral fellowship can only grow in a life that is governed by gathering around the Word morning and evening and by fixed times of prayer. Do not try and make the bible relevant, it’s relevance is axiomatic, do no defend Gods Word but testify to it. Trust to the Word.” [ Section 2 chapter 9 — Chapter 23 ]
I just think it was really cool that as he grew and thought through things he turned to a more set and liturgical way of doing things. Fixed hours of prayer and regular bible study individually and corporately. This is why his work – Life Together is so compelling.

Bonhoeffer had a friend and confessor. He trusted this person to criticize and shape his theological ideas and to share his inmost struggles. They prayed together and worshiped together daily. I guess i just think this is pretty amazing, to have a person you so throughly trust and are connected to. Many people are scared of this kind of intimate relationship. I pray i would find a person to whom i would connect with and be able to open up to in such a honest way. I think we should all want it. [ He talk about this in Section 3 chapter 2 ]

I have a few other book marks i could share but this post it long enough so this will do for now. It’s a really great book. Bonhoeffer was a really great man. It’s a pretty huge book, over 30 hours of audio but worth every minute!

Grace and peace



A Bright Sadness…


As i mentioned yesterday we are about half way through our Lenten journey. How’s it going?
Well i posted this little quote on the WWW.LENTWEBGUIDE.COM the other day and it came to mind again yesterday as i talked about Lent being a hard season to describe. It’s hard to say it’s good, it isn’t only hard and dry… so how do you really explain it. Fr. Alexander Schmemann in his book Great Lent: Journey to Pascha describes it as a “bright sadness”. Here is the quote…

“The Lenten season is meant to kindle a “bright sadness” within our hearts. It’s aim is precisely the remembrance of Christ, a longing for a relationship with God that has been lost. Lent offers the time and place for recovery of this relationship. The darkness of Lent allows the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the brilliance of the Resurrection.”

Let me know repeat, “The darkness of Lent allows the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the brilliance of the Resurrection.”

and YES!!!
(you should hear Amen)

I also ran across this blog that also quotes Schmemann and another bit of his book, it’s good! Check it out. 

You can also download Great Lent: A School of Repentance Its Meaning for Orthodox Christians — a free kindle book by Schmemann on Amazon. I haven’t read this but i read The Great Lent  and image there is some overlap and it was great!


May you experience this bright sadness of Lent that leads to the flame of the Holy Spirit bring bright in your life preparing you for resurrection!

Grace and peace




A Few Lenten Thoughts…


How is your Lent going?

It’s kind of a hard question, right? I mean i want to say good but that doesn’t sound very Lent-ish. So i want to say dry, hard, horrible… but that’s pretty depressing and i don’t want to make people cry when i talk with them. But really, my Lent really is going well. My primary disciplines are hard and yes, i’ve failed a few time but for the most part i’m sticking to it and feel as though God is drawing me down this Lenten path that will through the power of the Spirit lead to death and ultimately to resurrection. I’ll probably share more about my specific disciplines later but it as been good and hard.

I’ve also started reading a book this past week that is dovetailing well with my Lenten journey. Todd Hunter is a bishop in the Anglican Church but doesn’t feel much like a bishop (i say that as a good thing). I’ve had lunch with Todd before and have had a couple other brief conversations with him and every time have felt connected and encouraged. I don’t always have tons of hope in the Anglican church to be honest but it’s guys like Todd that make me think maybe there is room for a vangbond like myself under this tent.
His book Our Favorite Sins; The Sins We Commit & How You Can Quite  has been pretty good so far and very Lenten in it’s direction. A large part of the books premise is about reordering our desires because temptation always starts from the desires that we already have. And this week in my Lent book the theme is DESIRE. And when i think about my success and failure in my Lenten disciplines a lot of  the conversation in my head and heart is about the desires that to often control me instead of me controlling them.

So yea, it’s all dovetailing well.
And Todd will be speaking at Christ Church (the church i work at tomorrow — pretty excited about that).

We are about half way through our Lenten journey.

May you be aware of the Spirit that is with  you even in the desert and finish the journey strong.

Grace and peace



A New Monasticism…


I finally finished the book A New Monasticism by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Like many books i read it was a pretty start and stop process so it took me forever but it was worth it, a good read for sure.

The book is in line with a lot of Shane Claiborn type conversation. It’s a little less on the “radical” side whatever that means. But it makes some great points and even admits that this kind of new monasticism isn’t for everybody. But i’m pretty convinced there is ALOT in this book, in this new monastic movement and in monasticism in general that Christian can learn from, especially evangelical Christians.

So buy a copy, ready it, figure out how it can inspire and influence your community!

In the very end of the book Hartgrove shares a story of a friend of his. It REALLY resonated with me. I almost titled this post  — Conservative / Liberal and something else completely… which is what this quote is all about. Maybe you will resonate as well.

(i didn’t feel like typing it all out, so picture form it is! ENJOY!)



Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me…


I had the opportunity to go on a retreat with my family this past weekend. It was a really good weekend despite the impossibility of retreat when you have a 2 year old and a 2 month old. I’ll share some details and reflections from the retreat later this week but the speaker / retreat guide for the weekend was Ian Morgan Cron. It was great to hear from him, chat with him, and be challenged by him.

Before the retreat i read his book Chasing Francis, AMAZING! I also started his book Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, which is also really good! Here is a quote that i ran across tonight that really stirred me, and i believe it to be true…

“Boys without fathers, or boys with fathers who for whatever reason keep their love undisclosed, begin life without a center of gravity. They float like astronauts in space, hoping to find ballast and a patch of earth where they can plant their feet and make a life. Many of us who live without these gifts that only a father can bestow go through life banging from guardrail to guardrail, trying to determine whyour fathers kept their love nameless, as if ashamed.

We know each other when we meet.”

I’m one of these boys and this is true.  And I am glad i will be able to give my son a different experience and will communicate my love to him every chance i get!



After You Believe :: On Virtue & Character


Screen Shot 2011-09-21 at 12.17.47 PMWell, I finally finished N.T. Wright’s book After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. It took me WAY longer than most books take but it was well worth it.

I’ll first say that this isn’t the first NT Wright book I would suggest. It was slower and harder to get through than most of his books. At the same time it was some of my favorite content by Wright because of its timely nature—at least for the conversations I’m observing and even some of the conversations I’m having. Let me explain a little.

Pop theology and Christian culture is hearing A LOT from the neo-reformed and Calvinist crew these days. The Gospel Coalition and leaders who run in those circles (Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, etc.) seem to be gaining a lot of traction in the circles I run in, especially in conversations related to young adults, youth, and church planting. Some of my best friends and conversation partners are firmly rooted in this reformed camp (Gospel Coalition or not) but, in my opinion, way too many conversations wind up having to do with grace vs. works and similar topics. I think a lot of this is because of a fear that if we do anything good we might be trying to earn our salvation or something along those lines. And I’ve heard enough low blows about Methodists and their theology to last me a few years at least, and I’m not even Methodist … although I do like Wesley an awful lot!

In comes N.T. Wright.

Wright gives an alternative to the rhetoric of the Gospel Coalition, he draws a picture of a life lived in the sweet spot of grace and action. He paints a picture of true christian character and a life of authentic virtue.

I think one of the reasons this book was “slow” as I described it was because the topics of virtue and character are foreign relics in the landscape of our current Christian conversations. Wright has to re-introduce these themes; he had to almost start from scratch because we don’t talk about virtue and character much these days. When it was all said and done, Wright’s last chapter entitled “The Virtuous Circle” was worth the price of the whole book as he clearly articulates what we are called to after we believe. He simply brings it all together and explains how to engage in the virtues of faith, hope, and love. And as he’s done throughout the book, he challenges the reader to take action, to exercise these gifts so that we can become the people God has created us to be.

The bottom line is that we don’t become on accident or by osmosis, but we become the people God created us to be—we become fully human—by hard work and exercise, exercise of the gifts of faith, hope, and love that God gave freely when we said yes to His Spirit that was drawing us to Himself. Our effort and exercise is enabled by the life of Christ and the Spirit He fills us with, but our effort, by His grace, is the path to becoming like Christ and to developing a second nature. I like to think about it in terms of participation. We don’t pull ourselves up and become good Christians by hard work; instead, we participate with God’s creative Spirit to recapture the life we were always meant to live.

Another thing that really popped out to me in this book was the idea of a second nature. When we use the phrase “second nature” it’s typically referring to something we do automatically. It’s like we didn’t think about it but it was just second nature, almost like it was a reflex. But Wright points out that it’s small choices over a long period of time that develop that second nature in us. And living out the virtues of faith, hope, and love is exactly that type of thing. Small decisions over a long period of time help faith, hope, and love to be our natural reaction to life’s situations. But it takes time to develop that, maybe a lifetime.

There are a few other bits that are great in this book, some great stories and examples, but I won’t continue to ramble. I’ll let you go get the book. It’s worth it.



2010 Reading List


I read a pretty good amount, not as much as i would like but a decent amount non the less. There are quite a few books i read portions of but here is my 2010 reading list (books i actually completed).
In the Order that i read them not in the order i liked them.

2010 Book List…

#1. iDentity : Who you are in ChristScreen shot 2011-01-21 at 12.18.50 AM

Eric Geiger

#2. Introduction to the Devout Life

Saint Francis de Sales

#3. The Waste Land and other Selected Writings

T.S. Eliot

A little poetry is always good for the soul. I don’t get about 90% but maybe that’s ok.

#4. The Sacred Meal

Nora Gallegar

I believed i blogged about this book. It was solid, not the best account or greatest insight i have ever read on the Eucharist but it was solid. I would recommend it!

#5.  Giving Church Another Chance Screen shot 2011-01-21 at 12.26.20 AM

Bishop Todd Hunter

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Todd back in May so i picked up his book and read it quick. And i really enjoyed it! It didn’t rip my face off with amazing and deep theological reflection but is spoken honestly, authentically, and practically about worship, about liturgy, and about the church. It was a really good read and when and if God does open the door for me to plant a church this is a book i will probably read again. Most of all i just love Todd’s heart not only for the church, tradition and liturgy (all passions i share with him) but also his passion for evangelism (which i also share). Reaching those who either have been disenfranchised by church or just don’t care and never have. Todd wants his church community to meet the needs of those who Jesus is after not just those of us who are already on the journey and to do that in the context of high church (i use that loosely) is really refreshing and inspiring! So… go read this book. His new book is on my 2011 reading list… i’ll share that later.

#6. Reflecting Glory :: Meditations for Living Christ’s Life in the World

NT Wright

NT Wright is a stud, we all know that but this book is more on the devotional side of things. So if your looking for a stellar devotional book, especially during the lenten season this year. Pick up this book!

#7. Born To Run borntorun

Christopher McDougall

Ummm… how to say this without overstating it. AMAZING! This is probably one of the best non-fiction books i have ever read. Simply inspiring! 

#8. Surprised By Hope

N.T. Wright

Tom again. This book was great. Not as great mind blowing as i thought it was going to be but great non the less. And if you haven’t read or thought much about eschatology and mission this book will probably blow your mind and probably even change you life. It really is a must read for all of us to grew up in the Left Behind (is my end time doctrine) era. MUST READ! And i’m reading the follow up book right now.

#9. The Dwelling of the Light :: Praying with the Icons of Christ

Rowan Williams
I’m preparing myself for some new ink. This was a great little devotional book and also part of my preparation.

#10. Our Anglican Heritage

John W. Howe

#11. The identity of Anglicanism :: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology

Paul Avis

The last two books on the list are some Anglican reading i’m doing these days. The church i go to is apart of the AMIA (The Anglican Mission in American) a really great group of people who i am really excited about linking arms with.


So, that’s my 2010 reading list.


What was you favorite book of 2010?


What’s on your list for 2011?
Do share! I will soon.


Grace and peace




A critique of facebook / identity / honesty /and the / self…


So i think we have some identity issues at play in our culture. We have our true self, our facebook self, our desired self, and actualized self. My pastor preached a message on the true self, i heard Peter Rollins give a little commentary on the facebook self when he preached at Mars Hill and i’ve been thinking about identity all my life, mainly cause mine is confusing, i even made a little video about it.

Yesterday i got to thinking about it again.

A few of my friends, some current friends and some old friends from college filled out a little survey on 15 influential authors. As i was writing my list i realized that this was a practice in honesty and identity, at least for me. I wanted to put cool authors and if i were honest i probably stretched the truth with a couple of the authors i wrote down. But it’s a facebook survey, i needed to put all the cool authors i have read and some that hopefully others haven’t read, you know created a perceived reality of myself or something. I couldn’t put down Max Lucado or something, or my gilty pleasure of Joel Olstean (which i have NEVER read in my life, just to clear that up.)

My main point is that we fill out survey’s like this, no no… I fill out a survey like this and it becomes a practice in honesty and identity. Am i honest? Or am i trying to construct a certain view of myself. And the real question probably is, WHY? Why do i even feel the need to do it.  Probably just cause it’s stupid and fun and it only took about 3 1/2 minutes. But it got me thinking about identity again… so i thought i would share.

Just in case you missed it on facebook, here is my list. An honest list, but kind of impressive, right?  😉

Not really…

PS :: you can do this on facebook but copy and paste your list in the comment section of this blog, i would love to read it… BUT REMEMBER, this is a practice in honesty and identity! maybe….

The Rules:

Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag some friends (however many you want) including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.

(To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note.)

In no particular order…

  1. Don Miller
  2. Brian McLaren
  3. Stanley Hauweras
  4. John Howard Yoder
  5. Jurgen Moltmann
  6. Dallas Willard
  7. NT Wright
  8. Muhammad Yunus
  9. Tim Keel
  10. William Cavanaugh
  11. Soren Keirkagaard
  12. Ernesto “Che” Gueverra
  13. Alexander Schemann
  14. Richard Foster
  15. John Wesley