A couple weeks ago I received an offer to review an advanced copy of Mark Hall’s newest book, Thrive. If you’re a fan of Christian music then you’ll most likely recognize Hall as the lead singer for the band Casting Crowns. Their latest album, also titled Thrive, was just released two weeks ago and I had recently purchased tickets to see them in concert with For King and Country and Laura Story. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to have this opportunity and jumped at the chance.
The title track on the album Thrive includes the lyrics “We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives / It’s time for us to do more than just survive / We were made to thrive.” This theme is carried over into Hall’s book. Hall sees the ability to thrive as being two-fold: first, you must dig deep into the word of God and set down roots, then you must reach out and be a witness to others – share your faith. The book is broken into those two sections, “Digging Deep” and “Reaching Out” and each chapter contains real-life illustrations and real advice on how you can dig deep and reach out.
Aside from being the frontman for Casting Crowns, Hall also serves as a youth pastor for his home church in Georgia and has served in ministry for nearly 20 years. Many of his anecdotes and pieces of advice come from his own experiences in ministry – in other words he has the experience to back up everything he says in this book and he knows what he is talking about.
Hall’s writing style is completely open and genuine, drawing the reader in and talking to them, not at them; however, he’s not afraid to speak the truth, such as “Everyone wants an accountability partner until it’s time to be held accountable.” And he points out in chapter 26, titled “Friend of Sinners” (referring to “Jesus Friend of Sinners,” which is also a Casting Crowns song) that Christians need to learn to balance love and truth when dealing with people. The example he gives are groups who stand picketing outside abortion clinics, “Does it do any good to scream at girls and women as they walk into a clinic that many of them don’t want to walk into anyway?” The loving part, as Hall suggests, comes in before they would even need the clinic.
Another topic Hall discusses frequently throughout the book is our tendency to put God in a box and limit what we believe he can accomplish, when our minds cannot even begin to grasp all the things God is capable of. One comment that really stood out and drove that point home was when Hall was discussing how we pray for people. “When somebody else is dangerously sick, we pray for ‘God’s will,’ not for healing, because we’re afraid the person won’t pull through and we don’t want to stick out our necks in public. … Our just-in-case prayers tell us something about our view of God.” However, Hall points out, God is much bigger than those boxes we put him in (which also brought to mind that old Veggie Tales song, “God is Bigger than the Boogeyman” and I’ve had Junior’s voice singing in my head ever since).
Thrive is a very engaging read that will encourage you to be a little bolder in your faith, to dig those roots a little deeper and to try reaching out and sharing your faith not just with total strangers, but also your friends and family and anyone else with whom you have the opportunity to share. In several chapters Hall tells about the “Mighty Men” a group of his youth who became very outspoken in their high school and shared their faith with hundreds of their classmates. Stories like theirs will get you thinking about what you can do to be more outspoken about your faith.
If you’re looking for a good read that will help you take a look at your faith and encourage growth, then I highly recommend reading Thrive – especially if you also happen to be a Casting Crowns fan. This would also be a great book for a small group or a Sunday school class to build a Bible study around. There are a lot of chapters within the book that would offer great jumping off points for group discussions.
“Surviving is for those who have no hope. That’s not you – not if you’re God’s child. You were meant to thrive.”