And I’m not nearly the reader I used to be. When I was in my early 20’s and going through one of the biggest times of personal and spiritual development, I found myself coming back time after time towards the same handful of books. I don’t know how many times I read each of them, but as I grow older I realize how each of them played a serious role in who I am in my late 30’s, In many ways, these books are responsible for me. They formed me, forced me to grow and expand, and taught me so much. In many ways, they made me who I am now. They helped me understand my own scripture and prayer life and helped me learn what it looked like to live as a Christian in the world.
5 Books (That Are Responsible For Me)
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
There was a time in which I pretty much duct taped my first copy of “Pursuit” to my Bible. It was making the rounds at my college at the first part of an intentional discipleship relationship with a campus pastor and the word got out. Many of the folks I was around back then could trace their own path of following Jesus off this book. I recommend it constantly. I’ve ended up keeping around 5 copies around my office to give to people. In fact, I’ll give any of my copies away with the exception of that first copy. It’s downright sacred.
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
This is the first of Richard Foster books on my list. We used it in college ministry and I had a fantastic co-leader that outlined the entire book for everyone. I thought the outline was so awesome I went out and bought a copy of the whole book. Celebration taught me about a HUGE amount of Christian Practices outside of my own personal experience.
Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster
After I read Celebration of Discipline, I started hunting down every Richard Foster book I could find. It was a little tough in the pre-Amazon era, but my part-time job at bookstore helped. If I have to think about one of the biggest pivotal shifts in my life, it was discovering and interacting with the larger, historic Christian faith. And I read about it for the first time in Streams of Living Water.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
Richard Foster started me down a trail of reading and working through other Christian traditions. The Practice of the Presence of God is a 17th-century Catholic monk. I read and reread it for an entire summer. It helped me learn to not be so forceful in my own devotion and how rest factors into our own life with God.
Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas
Resident Aliens was a pretty big personal shift for me. It made me fall back in love with the church and dream of the possibilities it as. Before this point, my spiritual development had primarily been personal, and in some ways had decently given up on any sort of gathered expression of faith.
All of these books have been important for me. If you are wanting to dive deeper into your own relationship with Jesus, or just learn new things, you won’t go wrong with any of them.
I’ve started a new experiment. I’ve been thinking of vlogging these last few weeks, and ultimately, after pouring over youtube, realized I wanted to start working through an honest week of sermon writing. I couldn’t find pastors regularly vlogging, so I am curious how this all works out.
So without any added fanfare, here’s the first episode of Behind the Sermon. If you dig it, please subscribe on youtube.
Earlier this year I asked this question on Facebook and got around 200 comments. I love the question. It tells me so much about a person and their musical taste and preferences.
Good questions tell us so much more than a simple answer.
I wrote a piece on Why I became a Methodist. In the article, I mentioned one of the primary decision points being my belief in the effectiveness and necessity of Wesleyan discipleship.
Part of historic discipleship and formation (growing closer to Christ) in the Methodist tradition is the act of asking questions. We ask them to ourselves in our own personal devotion. We ask them to others we are in accountability with. This was important in the Methodist movement and I feel a recovery of the asking of questions will be a key thing to any spiritual development in our world now.
A little history…
Wesley organized his folks (you couldn’t really call them a formal church yet) into 3 groups. From largest to smallest; the Societies, The Classes and The Bands. Part of the fundamental design of the two smallest (classes and bands) was a series of questions designed to keep each person in forward motion towards Jesus Christ. The Class met as a mixed group of sexes and ages. When they met, these questions formed the main conversation points. They got SERIOUS!
When the Bands met, the questions got even more in depth. They also centered on this small group (usually no more than 5-6 and same sex) really keeping each other on track. You gave the others the permission to get into your business.
These questions matter. They help us to be real and honest with each other. One of the best small group experiences I have ever had focused on asking a few of these questions every week. This isn’t casual discipleship. It is changing and transformational discipleship. It is the kind of spiritual relationships each Christian needs to have in their life.
Several groups have done a great job trying to incorporate these classic notions of discipleship into current life. Most of them are going really well. What I really appreciate are the attempts to quickly get the emotive qualities of these HUGE lists into a few simple questions. You can answer them openly, in front of people you know and don’t know. You can be asked them by people who know you really well. The most important quality is these questions are approachable. It is frightening allowing others into what most modern Christians consider to be pretty private. Here is a listing of the ones I have found, liked and used.
1. Are you growing closer or further away from God since the last time we met?
2. How do you see God moving in your life right now?
3. How is your life in God?
Lately, I have a new one I have been thinking about, asking myself and asking others. It comes from my own personal conviction and values.
How have you allowed God to change you lately?
This question tells much more than a simple yes or no. In my own examination it causes me to think about my openness to Christ, my expectation of his presence and activity, how my false self is being broken down, etc, etc. It is great and broad.
Self-examination has long been part of Christian tradition. It helps us to make the points in which we have grown closer to God, progressed in our sanctification, won victory over things controlling us or simply mark our maturation in Christ.
So friends, How have you allowed God to change you lately?
This weekend I finished what has become a regular practice in my life. I read the Bible in 90 days. Actually, this time it took a little longer, but I kept up the practice of a long read of scripture in a rhythmic fashion. I believe all Christians benefit from frequent 90 day bible reads.
I usually keep to it 4 times a year, so it would get done every quarter. I love reading the Bible this way. A good friend challenged me to try it out and I have never stopped. I also have a different reading strategy at night (I read one book a month and pray through it). For the last several years I sit down every morning and spend some time reading scripture. I do around 12-15 chapters a morning. I use the plan on youversion or a print out this PDF.
It isn’t for everyone. One of my best friends and I argue about it. For me, it works great.
I know some of you are thinking “Of course..shouldn’t preachers be reading the Bible that much?”
I would be doing it no matter what. I love how it consistently orients and prioritizes my time towards God.
I want to share with you a few reasons why I love reading the bible this frequency and speed.
1. I like a longer, frequent read.
I like the connect the dots of the biblical narrative. This is easier to do when you read through the entire Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament) in around 2 weeks. Many of the New Testament letters can be read in one sitting. After I did this several times I found myself realizing the large scope of the biblical narrative in ways I had never seen it before.
2. It draws me to Biblical Theology.
I believe the Bible matters. It is the word of God and the story of redemption drawn over thousands of years. I also think the Bibles construction with purposeful. It is hard to see this when we are always reading small and often unrelated pieces. My 90 day read builds Biblical familiarity. I can’t think about worship in Chronicles without thinking of the Exodus or visions of St. John in Revelation.
3. It’s a great way to start the day.
I love making my coffee and sitting down to read familiar words. I have done this enough to where I can anticipate what will happen next. It’s like having a conversation with a friend. If I miss my reading early in the morning I am thinking about finding the time for it all day.
4. It’s handy as I build sermons and studies.
This last read I kept a small notebook as a placeholder. Every day if anything struck me I would write it down. I know there are several sermons in a formation stage in the notebook. The repetition and frequency of my read also help me see the large chunk of scripture and how sections interpret other sections. If I am preparing a message and I see something helpful, I can make a quick note in Evernote where I collect sermon notes.
No matter what you do for a living, I would encourage you to try the 90 day read. It will be one of the most spiritually beneficial practices you have experienced.
Today the 8th episode of The Threshing Floor came out. I am privileged to produce this podcast with two great friends and for it to be part of the amazing Seedbed family. In this episode all three of the hosts share why we each are Wesleyan. We are also each offering up a blog post today on the topic as well.
For me, there are many reasons I self identify as a Wesleyan. I didn’t grow up Methodist and I wrote about that transition a few months ago. I wasn’t always a Methodist…but I think I have always been a Wesleyan. The United Methodist Church became the place I found my own personal experience best expressed. And experience matters.
Why I am Wesleyan
1. The Theological Beginning Point of an Incarnating God.
I am a big fan of the incarnation. The tagline of my blog is “worshiping a God who has come to our world”. That is the incarnation. We have a God who is not distant and far off, but instead is right here among us. In the very mess of life.
The incarnation is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, so no big distinctiveness here. What I makes me Wesleyan are a few shifts the incarnation gives my larger view of faith.
God absolutely claims us first. He said yes to us before we said yes to him. This is why I (as a pastor) will absolutely baptize an infant. It is why I believe in the true goodness available to all people in prevenient grace.
This also gives us a savior who meets us in communion. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we meet with the presence of Christ at the Lord’s Table. Our Thankgiving isn’t just a rememberance, but it is a Holy mystery of us meeting and being sent by God.
2. Commitment to a Holy God.
When I was in seminary there was always a big conversation about Open vs. Classic Theism. What I appreciated was an alternate conversation about God being understood as Holy. Of course God is holy, but here we find another Wesleyan distinctive.
The very beginning point in our attempt to describe God is Holy. In his own words, God is who he is (exodus 3:14 אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה) If we want to look at the characteristics of what best describes, what is the starting point for the way our God works…it is holiness.
For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44)
God wants us to be like him, to be functional images of the one who created us. This is a precious gift.
3. The Importance of Human Experience.
One of the four parts of Outler’s quadrilateral is experience. John Wesley called Methodism an “experimental faith”. Not experimental like a science project or a weird cult, but an experiential faith. Human experience should play a dramatic part of faith. John Wesley had this at aldersgate and we each have primary spiritual experiences.
Not only do we have an experiential faith, but we have a faith in which our experiences about God teach us who He is. These experiences should shape our view of God’s character. We believe God gives us these experiences for this very reason.
These are just a few reasons. I hope the conversation helps you think about why you specifically believe what you do, whatever the faith tradition.
Since then, things have been busy. I also started the Productive Pastor Podcast this year and it has gone over really well. Revchadbrooks.com had 13,819 views in 2013. The Productive Pastor has been downloaded 3063 times to date.
2. The 5 Records That Saved Christian Music For Me. This post was written on a whim over a few days and had a tremendous response. The discussion it started both here and at Faith Villiage has been really interesting. I really wanted to open up and make a few confessions through this post many people wouldn’t assume a Pastor would make, namely that I don’t like/listen to Christian music.
3. The Easiest Way to Preach Better Sermons.One of the consicous decisions I made in 2013 was to invest in coaching. I started a relationship with The Rocket Company and their coaching system called Preaching Rocket. It has made a fantastic change in my sermon preparation and delivery habits. Through the engagement around this post, I think many ministry leaders have the same questions and struggles as I do. Also, The Rocket Company’s staff is excellent and adds tons of value for me personally. Brian Dodd is a great blogger and person to follow on twitter.
5. Why I Became a Methodist.
This is one of the posts I have republished on revchadbrooks.com from my old site. I felt it was necessary to talk about my transition to Methodism. It has been picked up several times by other outlets. It was another post I wrote not thinking very much about and has become very popular.
Thank you for being part of the community here and with the podcast. I am so thankful for all of my readers and how they honor me with just a few moments of their time each day.
Chad Brooks is a United Methodist Pastor serving in Louisiana. Married to Meredith, he is currently starting a new church in northeast Louisiana. Host of the Productive Pastor Podcast and lover of motorcycles, Chad would love to find Bigfoot one day.