Authors: Mark Hall with Tim Luke
Title: Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out
Publisher: Zondervan

“I’m a student pastor before I’m a singer,” writes Casting Crowns front man Mark Hall in Thrive, his fourth published work and a companion to his top band’s new record of the same name. Sure enough the book is even better than the album as it gives the youth minister more room to unpack his Bible-informed ideas about what growing in faith really involves. Aimed at teens, these thirty-three bite-sized chapters (six pages on average) can also speak to teachers and parents who might facilitate the reading.

Thrive builds upon the visual provided by Psalm 1:3, a verse describing the blessed man as being “like a tree planted by streams of water . . . In all that he does, he prospers.” With that, Hall introduces two key components of a vibrant Christian life that settles not for surface-level, daily grind survival but rather pursues a constant, fruit-bearing practice of internal and external spiritual checks and balances.

Section one—“Digging Deep”—urges young souls to “dig deep into the roots of our relationship with Jesus” to know who God really is and who we are as his followers. Hall is a good storyteller who breaks the ice with equal parts humor and transparency. His own accounts of identity crisis and academic struggle—here’s a GRAMMY-winning artist who failed the music major entrance exam— illustrate the salient point that “God’s dreams for us are bigger than our own.” Elsewhere, a recent ill-advised decision to watch a horror movie segues into a funny look at how Satan tries to redefine our beliefs.

Section two—“Reaching Out”—stresses the importance of branching into the world to show who we are in Christ and make God known to those who don’t yet follow him. Hall recounts a time when a youth group he served had mastered the “digging deep” concept but had completely forgotten about outwardly sharing what they were learning inside the Christian bubble. Throughout this book’s last half we are reminded to see others as Jesus does, to avoid making rash religious comments on social media (the world is watching), and, when sharing the gospel, to seek the right balance of grace, love, and truth.

Indeed, Thrive emphasizes balance at every turn. Christians who dig deep but don’t reach out in their faith won’t truly grow. Consider Mark Hall’s book a dependable resource to inspire a well-rooted, far-reaching growth spurt among students.

*Published 1/23/2014