Book Club: The Hole In Our Gospel, Part One

Alright, time to get started. I’m going to include the questions from the study guide. For those who are new, we’re reading through The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. Anyone reading with us is invited to comment your answers to share with us as a community. You can answer whenever you have time, one question at a time or whatever. Just male sure you include the question so we know what you’re talking about. Here goes.

1) Rich Stearns says that until he went to Rakai, Uganda, he lived in a bubble, insulated from anything too raw or upsetting. Can you identify with this? If so, what factors do you think contribute to the existence of your bubble?

2) Do you agree that poverty and suffering in the world have been – and are – drowned out by “choruses of praise music in hundreds of thousands of churches across our country”? Why or why not? What is your church doing to help the poor? How can you help it do more? Brainstorm ideas (and create an action list) with other members of your church.

3) What is the “bingo card” gospel, and what’s wrong with it? Do you agree that the gospel requires more of us than just believing the right things?Might there be “holes” in your own interpretation of the gospel? Brainstorm with friends about what those areas might be in your lives or, perhaps, in the life of your church.

4) Thinking of Jim Wallis’s experiment with his Bible, are there passages in the Bible you would prefer to overlook or ignore? What are they and why do you want to ignore them?

5) Rich described his journey through unemployment and the lessons he learned from those times. We’ve all faced hard times. How have such times broken you? How did those times change you?

6) The story of the rich young ruler goes deeper than money alone. What are you blessed with that you might be withholding from God? Your time or talent? Other things? Discuss this question and ways to break through any reluctance to give all to the Lord.

7) Rich writes that “Sometimes, in fact often, God’s blessings often come through our sufferings…”. As Christians, we are often quick to praise God when good things happen, but what about when bad things happen? What scriptures can you find that speak to this?

I am really looking forward to sharing in this with you. Yes, I’ll do my homework as well. Till then, breathe worship.


Camp Songs

Hey guys. Thanks to everyone who worshipped with us this week at Orange Beach. It was an awesome week and God moved in powerful ways. We’d love for you to comment on what God taught you this week. Please continue to pray for all the students there this week, the children around the world
that are being sponsored through Compassion, the Student Life team, and David Platt as we all continue through the summer. I thought I’d let you know where a few of these songs came from so you can find them on iTunes if you’d like to.

Your Great Name – The People’s Church – Michael Neale – Shine Out CD
Reign In Us – Starfield – I Will Go
Solution – Hillsong United – All of the Above
Healer – Kari Jobe – Kari Jobe (the original version isn’t available anymore but Kari does a great job on it, and she’s a great worship leader to get to know anyway)
In The Secret – Andy Park – In The Secret
Hosanna – Hillsong United – All of the Above

Well, that’s a start at least. We hope you all have a great summer. May you walk out the decisions you made at camp and may God be glorified in your lives. Till next summer,


Welcome Sam

Hey everyone. We have a new band member joining the Agnew crew. Sam Weaver will be playing guitar with us. He will be joining us at our first camp of the summer this next week in Orange Beach, AL. We are very excited about having him. He is originally from San Francisco, and is now moving to Austin following a recent 3 week stint in Memphis. He played on a few songs of the new record in the studio. He’s a great player and we’re looking forward to getting to know him better. He is going to be a special part of the ministry God has for us this year. Come out and say Hello to him soon.


Book Club Follow-Up

To all of you considering reading along with me,

I am really excited about this book. You can get it at most Christian bookstores for a little over $18. Amazon has it for $15.63 but with shipping it will be about the same if not a little more. For those of you who listen to books, it is available on iTunes for $11.

For everyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, I suggested we read a book together. It is called “The Hole in the Gospel” by Richard Stearns. I know this isn’t for everyone. But for those who are interested, I think it may be a neat experience. I looked at the book last night and realized it is divided into 5 parts. Each part has a few chapters. So I think we may aim at discussing 1 part per week. I’m going to look quickly at the introduction today, share a bit of it with you, and maybe a question or two. Then we will be set up to look at Part One next week sometime.  To give you a taste, this is the first paragraph of the Introduction:

“What does God expect of us? That’s what this book is about. It’s a simple question, really. But is the answer so simple? What is the Christian faith about? Going to church every Sunday, saying grace before meals, and avoiding the most serious sins – or does God expect more?”

Since you are probably here because you connected with my music in some way, I think most of you think God has more for our lives than what we have seen in most of modern Christianity. I think you may be willing to dig deeper.  I think this book will challenge us in that direction.

Mr. Stearns asks a couple of very pointed questions: “…as Christians, are we really given the option of turning away from the world’s problems? Does God permit that?”

What do you think? Can we turn away from the world’s problems and be living as God intended? What problems does this include? Economic? Social? Health?

Mr. Stearns says we should not only have a personal faith, but we should make our faith public. How can you do that in your life?

Well, there’s a few questions to get you started thinking along these lines.  I look forward to sharing in this with you.


AgnewsDei Book Club

This will be new for the new people, but it will also be new for those of you who have been around awhile. For a few years, we’ve had “What’s On The Shelf?” where I let you know what I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I don’t usually put books on there that weren’t any good. But I thought we might try something different. I’m going to tell you what I’m about to read. Then if you want to, we can read it together. Maybe once a week, I’ll put up something for us to talk about in reference to the book. I’ll try to read slow like you guys. I know, I know, I don’t have anything better to do, but you have to work, etc. And it’s true. But I’ll try to set a reasonable pace. I don’t know if it will work, but we can try. We’ll start with a book I’m very excited about reading. It’s called “The Hole in the Gospel” by Richard Stearns. He started World Vision, which we have partnered with for a few years now. Anyway, I know this isn’t for everyone. But for those of you that would like to, we can try it out. Thanks.


What’s On The Shelf

The Year of Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs

For everyone that’s new to our community, every once in a while, I’ll fill you in on what I’ve been reading. Today I’m going to tell you about a book I finished recently called, “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs writes in the form of a memoir. He chooses unique experiences, lives them out, and writes about them. His first book was about reading through the encyclopedia. But this book is about exactly what the title says. He chose to live by the BIble, word for word, for a year. Now this is more complicated than it sounds. To start with, Jacobs is Jewish, but even he confesses that is really just by heritage alone. It is not a belief he holds on to. Additionally, he does not merely follow the parts that are popular or what we have decided is culturally relevant. He attempts to follow every verse, every command of the Bible. And in doing so, he shows us how much of it we skip. We actually obey a very small part of the Bible. I enjoyed this book a ton. Jacobs made me laugh out loud multiple times. That can be embarrassing on a plane. But it was so enlightening to see the Word of God, which we believe to be alive and active, actually applied directly to a life. It was a book that both entertained and challenged. Now this isn’t CS Lewis or Josh McDowell. It doesn’t end with him becoming a Christian. It is the record of a year when a non-believer tried to walk out the Bible. It details his successes and struggles, his insights and confusion. I really liked it.


Your Thoughts On A Quote

For everyone new visiting the site, welcome. Just to let you know, every once in a while, I’ll put up a quote or a verse or something else for everyone to discuss. I’d love for you to participate in our community here.

And for those of you already a part who actually research backgrounds and stuff, this quote is from a fiction author in a novel. It is just a statement by a character in the book, so don’t read into it anymore than that. I don’t know what kind of belief system this writer holds to, but this sentence still shook me. So, with no further ado…

“My sin had been that I believed that I was the measure of the universe.”
– Tad Williams



What’s On The Playlist Today

Kings of Leon – Only By The Night
Today is a Kings of Leon day. Actually I think it may be Kings of Leon’s year. And it’s not because it was just their turn. It is because their new album is stellar. Now I am the first to admit I use the word “stellar” too often. That probably my favorite superlative. But this album really sounds amazing. As most of you may know, I have a tendency to move away from things that are popular, but even though people are starting to find out about Kings of Leon, this record is too good to leave behind. They start with those huge drums that sound so live right there in the middle. And then they have all the guitars. And none of them is playing a dumb part. No studio players just playing the same guitar parts as all the other records they play on. Each part has a great tone and unique line, from the delays and verbs of Closer, to the fuzz of Crawl, on and on, great guitar parts. And the guy’s voice just cuts right through everything. I look forward to the day when Christian radio sounds like this, when someone comes in the studio saying, “Todd, you need a radio hit. Try to sound more like Kings of Leon.” That would be awesome. But until then, I will just sit here listening to this record.

Andrew Peterson – Appendix C
I had to come in and add this record to the list because it’s all I’ve listened to for the past 24 hours. Well, besides the stuff we’re working on in the studio. Andrew is one of my very favorite songwriters of our generation. His stuff is always thought-provoking and is great music too.  So he released a live ep yesterday on iTunes so of course I bought it and have enjoyed it as always. His live show is so great. It’s so authentic, both in character and in sound. And they play great. But for me, it’s still about the songs. And as always, they are wonderful.

Jimmy Needham – Not Without Love
I love Jimmy. As a person and as a musician. I am so glad people are finally playing him on the radio. His music has such joy flowing through it, and not that overexaggerated manufactured joy. The music just shares an honest look at our faith and our Father. And it’s creative and fun to listen to. I’m always excited when we get another artist in Christian music who is willing to be who God made them and make the music they love rather than just sounding like everyone else. I guess it helps that I like the music Jimmy likes, and I like his music as well. If you haven’t found Jimmy yet, just take a listen. Plus, he makes me laugh. Well, not really on his records, just in person. I should check and see if he’s on Twitter because his texts have gotten me in trouble more than once, laughing in the middle of somewhere I’m supposed to be serious. But seriously, this is wonderful music.

Tommy Funderburk – It’s Your Blood
Okay, this is actually just a song, not a record. I think it’s on some greatest hits compilation from Vineyard. I learned it years ago for my friend Kendall’s wedding. But as I was preparing for church a couple of months ago, I was searching for a good communion song and these song peeked out from the dark recesses of my brain. It’s amazing what is hidden in there. Now if you listen to the song, don’t be distracted by the 80’s worship keyboards. Just check out the song. “It’s your blood that took my place in redeeming sacrifice and washed me whiter than the snow.” Classic.  Just a wonderful song. Someone should re-introduce this song to the church.  Maybe I’ll call Tomlin.

Third Day – Revelation
I know, I know. Everyone knows about this record already. But here’s the deal. Third Day is Third Day. They could record Mary Had a Little Lamb and sell a million copies. Maybe not as many as Crowns but a lot. But the thing is: they’re not mailing it in. They are still making great music. This record is one of their best yet. I think they took a great approach to the writing and recording of this project. I don’t even know what that approach was, but whatever it was, it worked. This album has been out quite a while, but I still walk around and at least for a few minutes each day, I find myself singing, “Give me a revelation, Tell me what to do….” The other day we were in the car and “Call My Name” came on the radio. My seven-year-old said, “Hey you’re on the radio.” My response: “I wish.” Not that I wish I was on the radio, because I am. But I do wish I had written that song.  It’s great.

Doyle Bramhall II & Smokestack – Welcome
And since we’re re-launching, we might pick up some new people who haven’t been subjected to my Doyle Bramhall tirade. I probably like Jellycream better, but I’ve brought that one up a lot, and Welcome is an incredible record too. It’s sounds much more like a classic recording, almost live. However, I’m pretty sure that more than one of those guitar players is Doyle. And why wouldn’t they be? If I could play like that, I would put like seven guitar parts on every song. If we still lived in the era of the guitar player instead of the era of the pop star, Doyle Bramhall II would be the most popular person on the planet. Instead he’s just the most popular person in my head, besides Jesus of course. And my wife. And my kids. Okay, he’s the most popular guitar player in my head. But anyway, his stuff is amazing. My favorite track on this particular record is probably “Problem Child.” It’s just killer. But the whole record just makes me want to go practice. Just the joy of music. Awesome.

And that’s what I’m listening to right now. – Todd


My five-year-old was tying her shoes today. Okay, she was velcroing her shoes. Is “velcroing” a word? Spellcheck seems to disagree but then it also just disagreed with the word, “spellcheck”. So back to the story…

My five-year-old was velcroing her shoes today. I’ll be honest. It took forever. She actually started at 4pm yesterday. Okay, that’s not true, but waiting on someone to tie their shoes gets old at about the 7 second mark. Job, I am not. That’s Job with a long “o”, not the way you make a living. Anyway, she was working on her shoes and I had this overwhelming urge to grab her feet and finish the job. (This time it is with a short “o”.) But the point is I wanted to grab her shoes and help her. Or at least hurry it along. But I didn’t. Because I wanted her to know that she could fix hernown shoes. And I wanted her to keep getting better at it. Guess how much better she gets at it when I do it for her? None. But today I took an extra 60 seconds and waited for her, and she took one more step towards being an independent capable possibly professional Velcro-er.

And I started thinking about how God looks at His kids. Namely, me. Life, obedience, holiness, all must look so simple to Him, and yet I sit here struggling with every moment of it. I make it much harder than it has to be sometimes. And I fail often. And I cry out to God, “How can you stand by and let all this happen? Are you even there? Do you really care?” (I deeply apologize for that rhyme. It was unintentional. I promise never to
use cheap rhyme schemes like that in my music.) But the truth is God is not absent. He is not passive. He is a loving parent, knowing that I must take these steps to become the man He wants me to be. He aches with my frustration. He longs for my joy and success but not at the cost of my growth. He can’t just rescue me each time. I have to walk the steps. And maybe then, someday, giving cheerfully, loving the unlovely, evangelism, holiness, all will be as easy as Velcro. But not today.