My Favorite Things of 2018

Here are some of my favorite things from this past year in various spheres. I recommend these things to friends, family, and now to you.

Note: (These are favorites this year because I interacted with them this year. Not because they were “new” this year.)

Favorite Music

Above & Beyond — Common Ground

CThis album is special to me for a number of reasons. 

I was introduced to electronic/dance music in high school by a manager at the pizza place where I worked. He pointed me to a weekly two-hour podcast of trance music called, at that time, “Trance Around the World with Above & Beyond,” now called “Group Therapy with Above & Beyond.” This group has been one of my favorite listens since I was introduced to them in 2007. 

Common Ground is their newest album, released in January 2018, and their world tour passed through a small venue here in Nashville.

You have to know that Above & Beyond is a world-famous electronic group. That they came through Nashville is a big deal. They’re based in the UK. They normally play places like this:

But in March, they came to a small venue in Nashville two blocks away from my office. I had to go. And I did. And it was amazing. Here’s some video of a ritual they do every show. It’s called “push the button,” during which they invite a fan up on stage to push the button to make the beat drop. It’s an epic moment.

Favorite Online Content Creator

Ninja (Tyler Blevins)

He won Content Creator of the Year at The Game Awards a month ago, and for good reason. Here is the room where is streams. He went from having no YouTube channel to having 20 million subscribers in a year. That’s never happened…and not even close.

It is hard to say whether Fortnite benefitted more from Ninja or Ninja benefitted more from Fortnite. Each played a significant role in the success of the other.

If you need background on who Ninja is, I don’t have time to write it all out, so you can just watch this:

I have tuned into Ninja’s Twitch channel countless times this year. I bought Ninja merch. He’s made his content clean. He’s a blast to watch. Even my wife likes watching him play Fortnite with me. Here’s my favorite moment from his stream this year, which I watched live and died laughing at:

Favorite Book

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

This was, by far, the best book I read in 2018. I resounded with so much of it. I’ve seen so much of it. I wrote a review for the ERLC here, and here’s a bit of that:

The problem with microaggressions, say Lukianoff and Haidt, is that people often unintentionally offend others simply because of their life experience, and that does not line up with the meaning of “aggression.” They write, “Aggression is not unintentional or accidental. If you bump into someone by accident and never meant any harm, it is not an act of aggression, although someone may misperceive it as one” (p. 40). That is where the phenomenon of microaggressions and The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning collide. The authors identify a shift in morals on campus—a shift from “intent” to “impact” (p. 43). What people intend has taken a back seat to how their act made someone feel, regardless of what the “aggressor” intended. The authors contend, “A faux pas does not make someone an evil person or an aggressor” (p. 44).

Go read that book. It’s a great explanation of the oversensitivity of America’s young people.

Favorite YouTube Channel

PewDiePie

I just think he’s really funny. I like how he pushes back against “safe” content creator culture. I like meme review. I like Pew News. I like his chair. “Subscribe to PewDiePie to beat T-Series” has been one of the best YouTube memes this year.

He’s offensive and controversial. But I watch him a lot because, being the most subscribed YouTuber in the world, he has a dramatic effect on culture.

Favorite Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Headphones

I had a nice contract gig earlier this year. I wanted some awesome headphones because I listen to music while working all the time. I asked Susie if I could use some of the money from the contract gig for these headphones, which I have wanted for a long time but never could justify buying. 

She said yes. And oh my goodness these things are amazing.

I don’t mean to sound bougie(?), but I never thought a pair of headphones could be worth $300—like I was ready to send them back as soon as I got them when I would inevitably realize they weren’t worth the money—but I was dead wrong.

If these things were stolen or destroyed tomorrow, I’d buy a new pair by the end of the week. They are just that good.

I listen to them 4-6 hours a day the whole work week and usually just charge them on the weekends. They charge super quickly. They pair immediately with my laptop and phone. Super clean and easy.

Seriously these are one of the highest quality products I have ever purchased. Worth every penny.

Favorite Video Game

Super Mario Party

I am 28-years-old, and I like to play video games. Spare me your shame. Someone on Twitter probably said something racist 10 years ago, go shame them (cuz apparently that’s a thing now).

I played a number of the most critically acclaimed games this year, and I liked them. Red Dead Redemption II was great. Celeste was amazing. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are both super fun. But none of those have been my favorite game of the year.

Super Mario Party has been my favorite game of the year. Not because it’s the best (that goes to Celeste or RDRII), but because my wife loves to play it, friends love to play it, and the students in the youth group I lead love to play it. 

I have had more fun playing Super Mario Party this year than I have with any other game. 

Favorite Twitter Follow

Kinja Deals

They always alert me to the best deals online. Most of the time they’re pointing to Amazon, but they often point to other areas as well. 

We have saved a lot of money because of these folks, I think, just by buying things we need at the right time when there’s a good deal. Highly recommend following them.

Favorite Accessory

Apple Watch Series 4

I received an Apple Watch Series 4 for Christmas. I received the first Apple Watch for Christmas when it was released three years ago. Every day when I get up and get ready in the morning, I put it on. I’ve done this for three years. My original Apple watch was starting to slow down a bit, as these products do, so I asked for the new edition for Christmas.

It’s great. It’s something I wouldn’t buy for myself, but I would ask for as a gift. It’s beautiful. It’s helpful. It tracks workouts and fitness really well. Highly recommend.

Favorite App

Dark Sky

I never, ever spend money on iPhone apps. I use every free app I can for anything. After years of using all sorts of bad, ad-laden, free weather apps for my iPhone, I finally decided to spend a whole $4 on the Dark Sky weather app. 

It is easier to read. It depicts weather information in clean, easy-to-understand ways. Best of all, it doesn’t have any ads that slow the app and clog the experience.

It is well worth your $4. You should buy it if you ever check the weather on your phone.

Favorite New Music

Jon Bellion

In this category I want to recommend music that was new to me in 2018, even if the music itself wasn’t released this year.

Just a few weeks ago I was introduced to Jon Bellion. I quickly became a fan of his music. I especially like his newest album Glory Sound Prep. You should give it a listen. It sounds good and has some pretty profound lyrics.

He’s coming to Nashville this summer and I may try to go see him.

Favorite TV Show

Narcos: Mexico

My favorite TV show this year was, without a doubt, Narcos: Mexico.

I have been a fan of every season of Narcos so far. The two Colombian-based seasons were fantastic. The newest season based in Mexico followed in line with those.

I love how much of these shows are in Spanish. I took 12 years of Spanish, so I actually understand a good bit of what is being said even without the captions. And I just love listening to Spanish as a language. It’s beautiful.

The show is fascinating to me because it is a dramatization of real life events. So it sort of feels like a docu-drama like Band of Brothers or the like.

I highly recommend it, but it is pretty raw, just so you’re aware. It doesn’t hold back on all that comes along with cartel culture.


So those are some of my favorite things from this year!

Have a wonderful 2019!

The Hype Train Doesn’t Deliver

I am, admittedly, more into video games and gaming culture than the average 28-year-old man. I own that.

I’ve played video games in some form or fashion since before I could read. I remember going across the street to my cousins’ house to play Super Dodge Ball on the NES before I owned a Sega Genesis and eventually an N64 in early elementary school.

This Christmas season, I have had a number of friends five or 10 years older than me inquiring about the Nintendo Switch what all needs to be purchased for a family to enjoy the games together.

I watch other adults play video games on Twitch pretty regularly.

I watch YouTubers whose primary content revolves around games and gaming culture.

For a long time, until the last couple of years, gaming culture has been a fringe culture. Only nerds played video games when I was growing up.

This is no longer the case.

Video game culture is blending into mainstream pop culture in unprecedented ways. But that’s another post for another day.

The Hype Train

When I get time to play video games these days, which is usually a couple of hours on the weekends, I am spending most of my time on the Nintendo Switch. I think it’s the greatest video game platform of all time (also another post for another day), and I love a number of the games available on it right now.

In the months leading up to a video game release, there is what is called “the hype train.” This phrase should be pretty self-explanatory, but, in short, it is the anticipatory build-up and conversation among fans of a game in the months (or even years) leading up to its launch.

In video game culture today, the primary corner of the internet through which the hype train chugs is Reddit.

As a social media platform, Reddit has always been more gamer-friendly, and the ability to create subreddits around various games is unmatched when it comes to building community and fueling the hype train for a video game.

Game developers watch subreddits of the games they are producing before and after release to get feedback from Redditors about what they want added to or changed in the game.

It’s a powerful system of communication between fans and game developers and among fans themselves.

It is in these subreddits, like this one for Super Smash Bros. which has a new game releasing this week, that the hype train is fueled.

The last couple of years, as I have joined the subreddits of a few highly-anticipated games I’ve purchased, I’ve noticed a common thread that runs between all of the games, no matter the platform or genre.

It’s sad, but every single time it has proven true:

The Game Never Fully Satisfies

Watching the hype train rev up and speed into the station is astounding. It truly is a cool experience.

A community of thousands of fans who have spent the better part of a year theorizing, sharing strategies, reviewing trailers, and more all coming together around the shared love for something truly is special. It is fun to experience and neat to watch.

Leading up to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate game releasing later this week, I have participated in the subreddit a good bit and it has been cool to build community with others.

But, sadly, I know what is going to happen as soon as the hype train pulls into the station and the anticipation disappears because the game has arrived.

It will just be a game.

It will be fun.

It will blow away some expectations.

It will not live up to some expectations.

But eventually, whether it be two weeks or two years down the road, the game will go away. And another one will take its place.

Now, some of the people aboard the hype train are probably fine with that. They understand that video games come and go and aren’t meant to be around forever.

But I read some of the anticipation and fervor around the release of some of these games and I just have to think to myself, “It cannot provide that for you. This game will not fulfill you!”

It’s almost as if many rabid fans of these games are looking to find meaning in some of these games. Looking for purposeFulfillment.

And don’t think I’m pointing a judge-y finger. It’s not like I haven’t been there before—I certainly have.

But as I’ve watched this phenomenon the last couple of years, it never goes away. It’s always the same.

It’s because a lot of folks are expecting more out of the game than it can give them.

But…

It’s More Than Just Video Games

I’ve used video games as an example throughout because its where I’ve seen this phenomenon most present in my own life.

But the eager anticipation of a hype train pulling into the station and the ultimate dissatisfaction of our souls isn’t limited to video games. We’d be foolish to think that.

We do it with marriage.

We do it with careers.

We do it with children.

Throughout countless areas of our lives, we fuel up hype trains of various kinds with the desperate hope that when the train pulls into the station our lives will have more purpose, more meaning, more value.

It’s just idolatry. That’s all it is.

We expect the things of this world to be something they can’t.

Enjoy the hype. Lean into anticipation. Just don’t put your hope in it.

Shutting This Down, Moving On

I’ve been blogging since I was in roughly the eighth grade. I earned a college scholarship because of a blog I wrote in high school. I blogged throughout college and have read (and managed) dozens of Christian blogs over the years.

Shortly after I arrived at LifeWay in September 2013, I ran into Trevin Wax in the LifeWay cafeteria (which is now a pile of rubble…this is not a metaphor).

I read his blog throughout college, but I didn’t know he worked at LifeWay, so I was confused to see him at my new workplace.

We got to talking and eventually he asked me if I would be interested in him mentoring me as a writer. I obviously said I would be interested, and in the spring of 2014, he told me he saw a need he thought I could fill in the Christian blogosphere.

I never thought I’d be talking to Trevin Wax about where I would fit into the “Christian blogosphere.”

He said he saw a need for older Christian pastors and leaders to better understand the Millennial generation. As he put it, most of the “advice” to pastors about reaching Millennials directed pastors to change their convictions to accommodate the more “liberal” beliefs of young people. I recognized this phenomenon as well, but I wasn’t sure I was the person to offer an alternative.

He proposed the idea of a blog dedicated to helping evangelical church leaders better understand Millennials. I didn’t want to be the “Millennial guy” and definitely didn’t want “Millennial” to be in the masthead of the blog.

Well. Trevin won that battle, obviously.

From the launch of the blog in June 2014 until now, a lot has happened.

I entered a partnership with a radio station in Minneapolis, MN. I still join them twice a month on Friday mornings. I love the radio environment.

I wrote a book after some prodding from friends to try it. I don’t plan to do that again.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak to groups of pastors, parents, and church leaders about Millennials and faith.

It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m thankful the Lord saw fit to give me this season.

On the first post at this blog, I wrote:

When I see a need, I want to fill it if I am able. A friend and I see a need for thoughtful conversation about Millennials in the Christian blogosphere. Countless Gen-Xers and Boomers write often about Millennials and Millennial Evangelicals. Nobody wants to be “the voice of Millennials” because nobody can accurately describe every Millennial all the time, even Millennials themselves.

My goal here is not to be “the voice of Millennials.” But, I thought it would be helpful steward the resources the Lord has given me to help the church understand and reach the Millennial generation: both Evangelical and not.

Every post on this blog will attempt to answer this question: “How does this post help God’s people understand, reach, and/or serve Millennials?”

If you’re looking for scientific research and analysis on Millennials, you might be in the wrong place. If you’re looking for the smartest Millennial on the Internet to share secret inside information on his generation, you’re probably in the wrong place. If you’re looking for a seasoned pastor sharing wisdom from his 30 years of ministry experience, you’re definitely in the wrong place. If you’re looking for an imperfect, but thoughtful, resource to help the church understand, reach, and serve Millennials, you’re in the right place. I claim no scholarly authority when it comes to the Millennial generation. I will likely make mistakes, using broad strokes to paint a picture of a diverse generation.

So, I come before you, the reader, humbly sharing my imperfect observations and personal experiences to help God’s people know and love the largest generation the world has ever seen. As far as I’m concerned, this is not my blog. This is the Church’s blog, and I’m just trying to keep it going. Feel free to send complaints, compliments, or blog ideas via the contact page. Let’s learn together.

I hope this blog has been that for you. But now it’s time to move on.

Why Shut It Down?

I lead the student ministry at our church, and one of the common refrains I hear from students (or others) is, “I don’t have time for _________.”

I used to say this often until sometime in college when someone said, “It’s not that you don’t have time. You make time for what you want to do.”

I have time to run this blog. But, I don’t want to make time to run this blog anymore, and that’s been the case for the better part of a year.

Like I said above, I lead the student ministry at our church. That currently takes at least two nights of my week and often some time on the weekends.

I need to be giving more time to my wife. The last thing I need to do when we’re together is shut myself in my office and hammer out a blog post for 1000 people to read.

I used to write much of this blog on the weekends. I basically don’t open my laptop on the weekends anymore because sitting in front of my laptop feels like work no matter what I’m doing.

These are just a few reasons I’m closing up shop here.

Sometimes you have to know when to shut it down, and it’s been time to shut this down.

What’s Next?

Quite frankly, I am 100% uninterested in building a personal “platform” anymore (more on that below).

As for this site, I will keep the website URL, but sometime before the end of the year, it will begin to re-direct to my new home on the web: chrismartin.blog. All of this site’s content will be available there at that time.

The new site is pretty basic. I’m breaking all the rules I tell people to follow when I coach them on how to design or run a blog.

I don’t plan to maintain any sort of “brand” anymore. I just plan to post anything I want to write there.

Why even have a blog if I’m not interested in platform-building? I still like writing, and if I can write and maybe encourage people, that is enough reason for me to write publicly and not just privately.

For more thoughts on not wanting to build a “brand” or “platform” anymore and some more on what’s next, I explain at my first post at the new place here.

It makes me sad to shut this down. I’ve spent a lot of time here.

Thanks for reading. It’s been fun.

-Chris

P.S. my book is still available here if you’re going to miss the inconsistent posts about ministering to Millennials.