Everything Church Leaders Need to Know about Nones | Influence Podcast


Between 1972 and 2018, the percentage of Americans who identify as Christian declined, while the percentage who claim no religious affiliation increased by nearly 500%. This growing segment of “nones” is younger than the general population, but Ryan Burge writes that “no segment of American society that has been immune to the rise of religious disaffiliation.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Burge about everything church leaders need to know about the rise of the nones. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Ryan Burge is an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and an American Baptist Church pastor. His most recent book is The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going, published by Fortress Press.

P.S. I reviewed The Nones for InfluenceMagazine.com.

How to Revive Evangelism | Book Review


“Forty-seven percent of Millennial Christians believe sharing their faith with others is wrong.” Not Millennials generally, but Millennial Christians specifically. And not difficult or inconvenient, but just plain wrong.

Craig Springer cites this statistic at the outset of How to Revive Evangelism to make the point that “the instinct to evangelize is eroding” among U.S. Christians. It’s easy to criticize Millennials on the basis of this one statistic — easy, but wrong. Instead, Springer believes that Millennials “actually hold the key to the future growth of the church.”

Why? Because they live in what John Mark Comer has called “the post-everything era.” They are “post-Christian,” having little to no religious affiliation. They are “post-family,” raised in non-traditional households. They are “post-technology” because smartphones and social media shape every aspect of their lives. And they are “post-super-size” because large, anonymous corporations — Big Tech, Business, Government, etc. — dominate their experience.

These four “post-“ realities leave Millennials unsatisfied. They yearn for “deep, meaningful dialogue about spiritual things.” They want “a place where they can belong.” In a world mediated to them by screens, they are “seeking out genuine interactions.” And in a culture characterized by bigness — even the churches are mega! — Millennials desire “intimate experiences.”

Unfortunately, the method of evangelism that predominates in U.S. Christianity isn’t responsive to those concerns. For many Millennials, “Disagreement is interpreted as judgment,” writes Springer. That being the case, the proclamation model of evangelism — whether from the pulpit or one-on-one — increases judgmentalism in Millennials’ minds because it foregrounds questions of what is true and good. Since judgmentalism is bad, it’s no wonder nearly half of Millennials believe evangelism is wrong.

How to Revive Evangelism doesn’t ditch proclamation, however. Springer writes, “proclamation is a necessary part of the strategy for spreading the gospel and it always will be.” So, what exactly does the book propose?

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus likens the evangelist to a farmer, the gospel to a seed, and the evangelist’s hearers to soil (Mark 4:1–20). If the predominant method of evangelism in the U.S. is about sowing seed, what Springer proposes is about training farmers and preparing soil. This requires Christians to make “seven primary shifts in how we share our faith,” which Springer articulates as follows:

  1. We have to be hungry for more [of Jesus], not just hoping for many [converts].
  2. We have to engage in conversation, not just proclamation.
  3. We have to create spaces of belonging, not just welcoming.
  4. We must speak through experience, not just explanation.
  5. Our concern must be with the fruitful, not just the factual.
  6. Our efforts involve we, not just me.
  7. We need to build unity [among churches], not just uniformity.

Springer makes a good case that these shifts create conditions — more importantly, communities — that are responsive to Millennials’ concerns. They don’t replace the call to conversion as much as they lay the groundwork so that it can happen in an authentic, life-transforming manner. Springer writes, “Demonstration + Conversation + Proclamation … that’s a powerful gospel combination.”

How to Revive Evangelism cites reliable data for its conclusions. The data come from a Barna Group report commissioned by Alpha USA, of which Springer is executive director. These shifts are not just data-driven, however.

Springer demonstrates them from the ministry of Jesus Christ himself. Alluding to Jesus’ invitation to Peter, James, and John to follow Him (Luke 5:1–11), Springer writes: “We can and will be effective at our call to be fishers of men and women only so far as we trust in Jesus and implement his new, old ways.”

I recommend How to Revive Evangelism to pastors, church leaders, and church members alike. It combines biblical insight with good data and practical suggestions and is easy to read. Discussion questions at the end of each chapter make it useful for small group settings.

Book Reviewed
Craig Springer, How to Revive Evangelism: 7 Vital Shifts in How We Share Our Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Reflective, 2021).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. I wrote this review for InfluenceMagazine.com. I cross-posted it here with permission.

Helping Youth Find Meaning, Identity, and Purpose | Influence Podcast


“Young people are experiencing record loneliness,” notes The State of Religion and Young People 2020, a report from Springtide Research Institute. “They have low levels of trust in most traditional institutions, and they are likely not responding to the efforts these institutions are making to connect with them. But they are — amid all these realities — seeking meaning, navigating questions of identity, and pursuing community.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Dr. Josh Packard about Springtide’s report and its implications for the ministries of the local church. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Dr. Packard is executive director of Springtide Research Institute, whose mission is to listen to the distinct ways youth (ages 13–25) experience and express community, identity, and meaning. An accomplished researcher with an expertise in the sociology of religion and new forms of religious expression, he has been published widely in both academic and popular outlets. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Vanderbilt University.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

7 Steps to Diversifying AG Leadership | Influence Podcast


According to Pew Research Center, the Assemblies of God is one of the most diverse Protestant denominations in the United States. AG statistics show that 56% of AG adherents are white and 44% ethnic minority. However, statistics also show that two-thirds of AG ministers are white.

The obvious question is how to diversify AG ministers so that our pastors better represent the diversity of our adherents. That’s the question I’m asking Dr. Darnell Williams in this episode of the Influence Podcast. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Dr. Williams is an ordained Assemblies of God minister; pastor of One Church in Lima, Ohio; vice president of the AG’s National Black Fellowship; and an executive presbyter of the AG’s General Council. Most recently, he is author of Wings to Rise: Blacks, Leadership, and the Assemblies of God.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Wings to Rise | Book Recommendation


The Assemblies of God (USA) is a racially and ethnically diverse denomination, 56% white and 44% minority. The diversity of its adherents is not matched by the diversity of its leadership, however, especially at the level of district leadership. Not yet, anyway. In this book, my friend Dr. Darnell Williams shares the fruit of his doctoral research with readers. To help the AG become a truly minority majority denomination, we need to develop a pipeline for minority leadership throughout the Fellowship. Reading Dr. Williams’ book is a good place to start.

Book Reviewed
Darnell K Williams, Sr., Wings to Rise: Blacks, Leadership, and the Assemblies of God (Self-published, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my recommendation, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

Slough House | Book Review


Slough House is the seventh novel in Mick Herron’s series about a department of agents MI5 doesn’t want but can’t fire. It is also the darkest and best installment. You can read it as a stand-alone, but trust me, you’re better off starting with Slow Horses and working your way through the series in order. The payoff will be huge.

The action begins with an assassination. We don’t know who or where at first, but when two former denizens of Slough House also end up dead, we learn both who and where and more importantly why. And learning why means the rest of Slough House is in danger, too. The plot is a race for time to see who gets to whom first.

I have two criteria for judging suspense novels like this: It must be so interesting that I want to turn the page to find out what happens next, and it must not tax my willing suspension of disbelief. Slough House is a believable page-turner, a success on both counts.

Moreover, Herron has drawn brilliant characters. Diana Taverner, MI5’s First Desk, is a cutthroat office politician. Disgraced politician Peter Judd is an oleaginous Macchiavellian whose way forward politically is as the power behind the throne. Catherine Standish is a white-knuckle recovering alcoholic who lends compassion, sanity, and a measure of organization to Slough House.

Then there’s her boss, Jackson Lamb—a streetwise Cold Warrior who smokes, drinks, flatulates, and insults readily and steadily, but also is the last face you want to see (or will see, period) if you mess with his Joes. Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes, and John Le Carre had George Smiley. Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb is one for the ages.

And the ending. If you’re not saying, “Don’t die” as you turn the last page, you haven’t been paying attention.

Highly recommended.

Book Reviewed
Mick Herron, Slough House (New York: SoHo Press, 2021).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

What Is God’s Will for My Life? | Influence Magazine


What is God’s will for my life?

The question is an important, if not all-important one. If God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives, as that old evangelistic tract puts it, then we need to know what His plan is. We don’t want to miss out on the wonderfulness, after all.

And yet, some Christians experience anxiety when it comes to God’s will. This seems to arise from two sources: First, the belief that God’s will is hard to find. Second, the  belief that God’s will is easy to fall out of and difficult to get back into.

If God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives, however, I doubt anxiety is the emotion Christians are supposed to feel. In fact, I know it’s not.

Our anxiety arises from false beliefs. The first step toward relieving anxiety so we can do God’s will is to correct those beliefs. One passage that has helped me do that in my own life is Micah 6:6–8:

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

We learn five things about God’s will from these verses: God’s will is (1) known, (2) not religious activity, (3) doing the right thing, (4) doing the right thing when wronged, and (5) sticking close to God.

Let’s look at each in turn

Known
First and foremost, God’s will is known because God has made it known. As Micah 6:8 puts it, “He has shown you.” God’s will is not a riddle to be solved, then, but a revelation that already can be seen.

So, when people share with me their worries about finding God’s will, I ask them why. Inevitably, it involves making a difficult decision, and they believe God hasn’t revealed which way He leans, even after their long and earnest prayers. But this implies that God is coy, as if He has a preference but isn’t telling, even though He still expects obedience.

That’s just bad theology. If God wants you to do something, He tells you what it is. He reveals it in the Bible, which is “God-breathed and useful” so that we can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Or he gives a word of wisdom, knowledge, or prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8, 10) to show you what He wants you to do.

If neither Scripture nor spiritual gifts reveal what God wants you to do in a specific situation, then perhaps what God wants is for you yourself to make a choice. I cannot help but wonder whether some people seek God’s will as a way to avoid the burden of responsible decision-making.

Not Religious Activity
So, God’s will is known. And based on Micah 6:6–7, we know that God’s will is not religious activity as an end in itself.

Notice Micah’s three rhetorical questions: (1) “Shall I come before [God] with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?”(2) “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?” (3) “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

The sacrificial system was the preeminent form of religious activity in the Old Testament. It occurred at the Temple under the close supervision of priests and Levites. The three questions involve an escalation of sacrifice, culminating in child sacrifice —which the Bible actually condemns (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2, 4). When religious activity becomes an end in itself, it always becomes extreme.

But notice that the implied answer to all three questions is “No!” God’s will is not more sacrifice, not more religious activity.

Why? For two reasons: First, religious activity that doesn’t result in moral transformation is worthless. In Hosea 6:6, Micah’s contemporary says this on God’s behalf, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 9:13.

Second, Christ has offered a once-for-all sacrifice for sins. Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” If Christ’s sacrifice accomplishes God’s plan, we don’t need to continue offering sacrifices, for that implies Christ hasn’t done His job.

In a lifetime of involvement with church, I’ve come across people who seem to think that they’ll experience the wonderfulness God has planned for them as long as they do all the religious things: read their Bible and pray daily, attend church weekly, tithe regularly, put a Jesus bumper sticker on their car, or whatever.

Such things can be useful as a means to an end, but they’re not the end themselves. And if they don’t result in “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27), they’re worthless, and you might as well stop them.

So, God’s will is known, and it is not religious activity as an end in itself. What is it, then?

Doing the Right Thing
Micah 6:8 reveals God’s will, and the first item on the list is “act justly.”

Justice means more than not harming someone. You don’t have to do anything at all to not harm someone. That’s passivity, not justice.

I like this note on Amos 5:7 from the ESV Study Bible as an explanation of biblical justice:

Justice (Hb. mishpat) is much more than legal equity; it refers to the entire scope of God’s government of his world. Thus, to “do justice” involves, on the part of government, a fair and just use of power and proper functioning of a fair judicial system, especially to protect the weak from the strong. On the part of individuals, “justice” involves honest and fair business dealings and faithfulness to keep one’s word, as well as not taking advantage of the poor or those with less power or protection.

In other words, justice means being proactive, taking responsibility to do the right thing.

Years ago, I preached a sermon on helping the poor, and can I say — as a preacher — that I knocked it out of the park? I held people in rapt attention, I received good feedback from the audience, and everyone left talking about what I’d said.

And then a homeless twenty-something came up afterward and said he needed a place to stay. Now, although I lived in town, I was a guest preacher at that church. I had a birthday party to attend with my then girlfriend. And the church’s pastors had quickly left to go to the same party. It was just me, the youth, and the janitor who was waiting for us to leave so he could lock up.

It’s easy to preach the right thing, but harder to do it. God wants the doing more than the preaching, however. So, I took the homeless guy to the party (Go ahead, invite me to yours!), let him sleep on my couch that night, and put him on a bus home the next morning.

I didn’t have to pray about finding God’s will in that situation. I just had to do the right thing in front of me. That’s always God’s will.

Doing the Right Thing When Wronged

Next, Micah 6:8 says God’s will is, “love mercy.” More than justice, mercy pushes us close to the heart of God. In Hebrew, the word for mercy is hesed. Hesed gets translated many ways: “mercy,” “lovingkindness,” “steadfast love.”

Hesed is often used to describe God’s relationship to the righteous. But it is most powerful when it is used to describe his relationship with the unrighteous. Consider, for example, Psalm 51:1–2, David’s prayer after Nathan pointed out his adultery with Bathsheba:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love [hesed]; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

If God shows mercy to sinners, which means to us, shouldn’t we be merciful to people who wrong us?

Hesed is more than something we do, however. It is a personal attribute of God. One of the foundational theological texts of the Old Testament is Exodus 34:6–7:

The LORD passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.

We often get caught up on that last verse, describing God’s punishment to “the third and fourth generation.” It’s a hard verse, but our sins have consequences that outlive us. Notice the most important thing, however: God’s mercy extends to “thousands,” but His judgment stays in the one-digit figures. “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

If mercy is a personal attribute of God, it must be an attribute of God’s people, too. I think that’s why Micah says “lovemercy,” not “do mercy.” It’s not enough to have mercy on someone. We must want to have mercy on them as well. Like God, our being must be merciful.

Sticking Close to God
Finally, according to Micah 6:8, God’s will is “to walk humbly with your God.”

To me, Micah’s order of presentation — justice then mercy then humility — is intentional. It moves from outward expression to inward motivation, from effect to cause. In other words, you cannot “act justly” and “love mercy” unless you “walk humbly” with God.

Humility is a much-maligned virtue, both in biblical times and today. We live in a celebrity culture that is endlessly self-promoting. And if you’re endlessly self-promoting, you’ve got to have an incredibly high view of the self you’re promoting.

I think part of the reason for this is that we have a mistaken view of what humility is. Humility does not mean that you have a low view of yourself. It simply means that you have a higher view of God.

Specifically, it means that you approach God from the point of need. You need grace, you need guidance, you need help, you need healing, you need life, you need love. You need that wonderful plan for your life.

God has all these things. So walk with Him, humbly.

To “walk humbly” requires hearing from God and speaking with Him. That’s why private and public worship are so important. They put us in communion with God on a daily basis.

If you prioritize anything in your life, then, prioritize your relationship with God. It’s the wellspring of everything else you’ll do.

Conclusion
So what is God’s will? You know it. God has shown it. It’s not religious activity as an end in itself, but it is justice, mercy, and humility.

Do the right thing. Do the right thing when wronged. Stick close to God.

That’s what God requires of us all.

P.S. I wrote this article for InfluenceMagazine.com. It is posted here with permission.

The Creed of Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words | 2021 Edition


Today is Abraham Lincoln’s 212th birthday, in honor of which, according to the custom of my blog, I re-post this post about Lincoln’s religious beliefs, such as they were. Enjoy!

*****

In 1920, William E. Barton published The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, a now classic study of the development of Lincoln’s faith. “Lincoln’s religious was an evolution,” Barton wrote, “both in its intellectual and spiritual qualities.”

Lincoln’s religious identity seems to have moved through three stages: (1) a Calvinist Baptist in childhood; (2) a skeptical, freethinker in young adulthood; and (3) and a not-altogether-orthodox Christian in mature adulthood.

“Too much of the effort to prove that Abraham Lincoln was a Christian,” Barton wrote, “has begun and ended in the effort to show that on certain theological opinions he cherished correct opinions.” Lincoln didn’t. For example, he evidently believe in evolution and universal salvation, and he had doubts about Christ’s virgin birth.

“Abraham Lincoln was not a theologian,” Barton went on to say, “and several of his theological opinions may have been incorrect; but there is good reason to believe that he was a true Christian.” By this, Barton meant that Lincoln had “a right attitude toward spiritual realities and practical duties.” (In my opinion, Lincoln was neither an infidel nor an orthodox Christian, but something in between.)

Barton concluded his study with “a series of short quotations [of Lincoln’s] from documents, letters, and addresses, certified authentic and touching directly upon points of Christian doctrine.” He organized these quotations into what he called “The Creed of Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words.”

In honor of Lincoln’s birthday—he was born on February 12, 1809—I’ve posted that creed below, adding footnotes that link individual phrases to their sources in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. This is the online version of Roy P. Bassler’s authoritative series of the same name.

The Creed of Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words[1]

I believe in God, the Almighty Ruler of Nations,[2] our great and good and merciful Maker,[3] our Father in Heaven, who notes the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our heads.[4]

I believe in His eternal truth and justice.[5]

I recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blest whose God is the Lord.[6]

I believe that it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to invoke the influence of His Holy Spirit; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon.[7]

I believe that it is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father equally in our triumphs and in those sorrows[8] which we may justly fear are a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our reformation.[9]

I believe that the Bible is the best gift which God has ever given to men. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book.[10]

I believe the will of God prevails.[11] Without Him all human reliance is vain.[12] Without the assistance of that Divine Being, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail.[13]

Being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, I desire that all my works and acts may be according to His will; and that it may be so, I give thanks to the Almighty, and seek His aid.[14]

I have a solemn oath registered in heaven[15] to finish the work I am in,[16] in full view of my responsibility to my God,[17] with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives me to see the right.[18] Commending those who love me to His care, as I hope in their prayers they will commend me,[19] I look through the help of God to a joyous meeting with many loved ones gone before.[20]

Notes
[1] William E. Barton, The Soul of Abraham Lincoln (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 300. This book is a reprint of the 1920 first edition published by George H. Doran Co. Chapter XXIII is titled, “The Creed of Abraham Lincoln.”

[2] “First Inaugural Address—Final Text,” March 4, 1861.

[3] “To John D. Johnston,” January 12, 1851.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “First Inaugural Address.”

[6] “Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day,” March 30, 1863.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Proclamation of Thanksgiving,” July 15, 1863.

[9] “Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day.”

[10] “Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible,” September 7, 1864.

[11] “Meditation on the Divine Will,” [September 2, 1862?].

[12] “To the Friends of Union and Liberty,” May 9, 1864.

[13] “Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois,” February 11, 1861.

[14] “Reply to Eliza P. Gurney,” October 26, 1862.

[15] “First Inaugural Address.”

[16] “Second Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1865.

[17] “Message to Congress,” March 6, 1862.

[18] “Second Inaugural Address.”

[19] “Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois.”

[20] “To John D. Johnston.”

Advice for Couples Considering Divorce | Influence Podcast


Christians believe that marriage is God’s idea and that divorce is a usually bad idea. And yet, Christians — including Christian leaders — get divorced too. The question that needs to be answered is what married couples can do to cultivate a healthy future for their relationship.

That’s the question I’m talking about with Toni Nieuwhof in Episode 242 of the Influence Podcast. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Toni Nieuwhof is a family law mediator, former divorce attorney, co-host of the Smart Family Podcast, and author of Before You Split, published by WaterBrook. She is the wife of Carey Nieuwhof, an influential pastor, leadership author and podcaster, and international speaker. They live in Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

The Wisdom Pyramid | Book Review


“Our world has more and more information, but less and less wisdom,” writes Brett McCracken in The Wisdom Pyramid.

How much more information? Consider this: One billion gigabytes of data is called an exabyte. Prior to the Information Age, all the words humans had spoken since the dawn of time equaled five exabytes of data. In 2025, that amount of data will be produced every 15 minutes.

And you can access most of it on your smartphone.

The Information Age has considerable upsides, no doubt. McCracken notes three: The Internet gives us easy access to all this information, it offers us platforms to share our points of view, and through its rating algorithms, it is able to offer us the consensus view on a given topic.

On the downside, however, what McCracken calls “information gluttony” leaves users with multiple symptoms of dis-ease: anxiety, fragmentation, impotence in the face of multiple tragedies, decision paralysis, and confirmation bias. As McCracken put it, “the lure of infinite, godlike knowledge wreaks havoc.”

The downside isn’t just information gluttony, however. The Information Age also enflames our desires for “perpetual novelty” and “ ‘look within’ autonomy.” It discards the tried-and-true in favor of the new, with the assumption that newness necessarily entails improvement. Moreover, it exacerbates modernity’s skepticism of authority in favor of autonomy and authenticity. This can be seen in the terminological sleight of hand by which the truth has devolved to mytruth.

In short, McCracken puts it, the problem in the Information Age is that we consume “too much” information “too fast” and “too focused on [us].” Wisdom in such an age requires “discernment” of the sources of good information, “patience” in how we assess them, and “humility” before God.

So, how do we learn these virtues? According to McCracken, we need to rethink what and how much information we consume. In 1992, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the Food Pyramid, which described the kinds and amounts of food healthy eaters should consume daily. McCracken uses the Food Pyramid as the visual inspiration for the Wisdom Pyramid.

At the base of the Wisdom Pyramid is Scripture, “God’s very words to us,” McCracken writes. “When we read the Bible, we are encountering God himself.” The next layer is the Church, understood as both the contemporary local church and Christian tradition across time. “At its best, the church takes us out of the uncertainty of the ephemeral and places us in the certainty of the eternal.” The third layer is nature, which McCracken calls “a prism and amplifier of God’s glory.”

Layer four is books, which are “vital in cultivating wisdom — not only for the truths they contain, but also for the way they help us think.” Beauty is the fifth layer. This refers to the experience of things both God and humanity have made. “Beauty shapes our hearts, orients our loves, quiets our minds, and stills our souls in a noisy and weary world. It’s a profoundly important part of any wisdom diet,” McCracken writes.

The final layer of the Wisdom Pyramid is where most of us spend too much time and mental effort: the Internet and social media. Given the excesses and temptations of the digital world, it is tempting simply to go offline. But like the humans who created them, the Internet and social media can be good or bad, depending on how we use them. McCracken encourages engagement: “Don’t leave these spaces to rot. Instead, find ways to heal, to redeem, to be light in the darkness.”

As a Christian magazine editor who spends a good deal of time reading, both in print and online, I found The Wisdom Pyramid to be both insightful and helpful. It is insightful about the cause of the malaise I personally feel everyday as I interact online. And it is helpful about how to sift so much (and so often contradictory) information for nuggets of wisdom. I enthusiastically recommend this book to Christian readers. Discussion questions at the end of each chapter make it a good candidate for conversations in book clubs, small groups, and even Sunday school classes.

Book Reviewed
Brett McCracken, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. I wrote this review for InfluenceMagazine.com. It is posted here with permission.

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