December 2, 2020

Recommendation: “What Was I Thinking?” by Steve Brown

At least once a year, I pick up a book by Reformed Seminary professor, radio talk show guy and Key Life speaker/teacher Steve Brown, and I am always glad I did. In fact, Steve Brown’s unique perspective in the reformed world is one of the absolute necessities for me in these post-evangelical, post-reformed times. His somewhat quirky, deeply gospel-influenced view of the world is worth the price of any of his books several times over.

Brown is one of the most memorable voices in broadcasting. He’s got a deep, rich, bass voice that would have made a life-long career in radio. (He could have made a fortune doing movie promos.) But Brown became a pastor, giving twenty plus years to one church, and when I came across him, it was because he was giving away free tapes on his radio program. I still have most of his exposition of Job somewhere, but what hooked me wasn’t the exposition. (He’s solid, but hardly spectacular) It was his blunt, funny, occasionally black comedy take on the whole business of being a reformed Christian. He’s kept it up for decades now, and as he gets older, he gets better. His latest book, What Was I Thinking?: Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All, is truly vintage Brown. I didn’t get a free copy or White Castles to tell you that this is great stuff that you can read in a couple of days. Buy it, read it, give it away.

Brown usually keeps it light, but he’s a serious theologian. He knows his reformed theology, but he’s not camped on it, staying mad about it or letting it turn him into a Calvin clone. Brown has become a grace fanatic, a Gospel zealot and a Jesus follower. He has a fascinating way of “tagging” the expected reformed position, then taking off in an unexpected direction, using humor and edgy commentary to go where few (if any) reformed writers ever go. All that stuff Drisocll gets in trouble for has been perfected by Steve Brown years ago.

Brown is a man who would easily hang out with Rich Mullins and Brennan Manning. He has liberals and gays on his radio program, even though he’s a GOP conservative. He did a television show with Tony Campolo, and he seems busy doing what this web site says I’m doing: de/reconstructing his evangelicalism into the stuff that is connected vitally to Jesus, and tossing the rest. He has important things to say about theology and GOD, theology and REAL LIFE, and theology and WHAT MATTERS. In short, only a fool things they are the same things.

This is a book that looks at the central topics of faith and chronicles how his mind has changed, how God has taken him places he didn’t think he would go and how the Spirit has taught him the tune, not just the words, to the song of faith. It’s funny, thoughtful and confrontational enough to keep you reading to see what he will say next. Brown isn’t trying to impress anyone. He’s a man who doesn’t want the scandal of the Gospel to be lost on people who have it parsed down to the sub-atomic level.

Steve’s radio ministry at Key Life will give you a sample of exactly what you’ll be reading. He is exactly what he seems to be. If he’s not one of your mentors, make him one. I like him more and more every year. I hope I can become a reformation Christian like Steve Brown. He reminds me of why people liked Jesus so much.


  1. The first few times I heard Steve on the radio, to be honest, I didn’t care for him. He has a really dry wit. But now, his show is my favorite 15 minutes on the radio. He has an honesty that is refreshing. I will definitely look for this book.

  2. Steve Brown spoke at my college graduation Baccalaurate service. It was tremendous. He compared himself to a corpse in the corner. His comments were completely unexpected and unflinchingly stark.

  3. “All that stuff Drisocll gets in trouble for has been perfected by Steve Brown years ago.”

    This comment is very insightful…

  4. My only exposure to Steve Brown has been reading a book of his called “A Scandalous Freedom”. I came away liking him but disagreeing with his take on freedom. My background is not reformed (I’m Anabaptist/Pietist via the Brethren) and so perhaps I didn’t understand where he was coming from or what exactly he was trying to say…

    I’d be interested in anybody’s comments on my review: and

  5. I was blessed to be able to meet Steve two and a halve weeks ago in Denver at the CBA convention. When I saw he was signing, I knew I needed to stand in line. His humor is truly infectious. And his southern bass is radio magic. But he is solidly Reformed, even if he’s not typical in his expression of it. He’s willing to be friends with non-reformed folks. He dares to hang out with the outsiders, with the “liberals”. Yet he stays true to what he believes in. He’s “inclusive” without being “inclusive” if you know what I mean. IOW’s, he’s cool, in a Christian sense.