My goal for 2014 was to read more books than I had in the previous year. I succeeded! And this year my goal is the same–to read more books than I did in 2014.
Below is the list of books I read last year. In the comments, I’d love to hear your recommendations for this year.
The top five in no particular order:
Real Sex – Lauren Winner
Recently some middle school boys were at my house and they started giggling when they found this book. I don’t know what they thought it contained, but I assured them that it was one of the best Christian books on sex that’s out there. However, they didn’t seem too interested since there were no pictures. Most people aren’t interested in reading Christian reflections on sex and chastity, but if I could give one book on sex to young adult singles, youth pastors, and pastors in my denomination, it would be this one.
I experience the church’s teaching about sex as difficult. I chafe against it. Sometimes it feels outmoded, irrelevant, burdensome. But to rely on my experience here would be to rely on something frankly broken and distorted. Sometimes it is scary or inconvenient to trust the church. But it is more often a relief to know that I don’t have to rely solely on my intuition or experience to make decisions about ethical behavior. The church is here to teach me how to handle sex, money, time, relationships, & myriad other issues.
The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail – Oscar Martinez
You won’t think of immigrants from south of the border the same after reading this book. It’ll challenge you, scare you, and open your eyes to the dangerous journey many make and why they would risk so much to make it.
I’m not hoping readers will feel compassion for the men and women who go through this hellish trial in order to wash your plates, to cut your grass, to make your coffee. I hope, rather, that the book generates respect for these men and women, for those who have done something for their families that many of us could hardly find the strength to do. Respect for this drive that migrants have, a drive which is stronger than the criminal cartels, a drive more powerful than the train engine and a drive more vital than any limb— a leg, for example—of our very body.
Letters to Marc About Jesus: Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World – Henri Nouwen
Last fall I asked Jim Harnish what book he would give to people wanting to follow Jesus in a more serious way and this was his recommendation. I ended up teaching a class with this book as one of the texts and it challenged us all to picture Jesus in a fresh light. Although some people found it a level above the pop theology they were used to, it is concise, clearly written, and helps to answer the question “Who is Jesus?” in a beautiful way.
Jesus is the revelation of God’s unending, unconditional love for us human beings. Everything that Jesus has done, said, and undergone is meant to show us that the love we most long for is given to us by God—not because we’ve deserved it, but because God is a God of love.
Who? Solve Your Number One Problem – Geoff Smart & Randy Street
If you hire people in any context you need to buy this book, read this book, and use it as a reference for years to come. Their process, questions, and advice have already been extremely helpful to me and I’ll be using their techniques for years to come.
Who is your number-one problem. Not what. What refers to the strategies you choose, the products and services you sell, and the processes you use. … Who refers to the people you put in place to make the what decisions. Who is where the magic begins, or where the problems start. … Who mistakes are pricey, prevalent, and preventable.
Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism – Austin Fischer
You can read my review posted on Seedbed here.
Before You Hire a Youth Pastor: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding the Right Fit – Mark DeVries
This book provides some great practical processes and questions for any church staff hire. It helped my church hire a great new youth pastor last year.
Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality – Wesley Hill
Wesley writes as one who is often locked out of conversations on homosexuality. He openly identifies as a gay Christian, yet he also believes in the traditional Christian teaching/practice of celibacy in singleness and chastity in marriage between one man and one woman. In the midst of a grid-locked debate regarding sexuality in the American church, Hill provides a breath of fresh air.
A Blueprint for Discipleship – Kevin Watson
Looking for a simple way to teach others about basic discipleship? Try this book that uses Wesley’s General Rules as a framework.
On the Threshold of Grace – Donald Haynes
I attempted to use this book as the primary text in my Methodism 101. While the chapter structure works well for a discussion of Methodism, the content was poorly edited, confusing for the class, and we scrapped it before it was all over.
Being United Methodist: What It Means, Why It Matters – Ellsworth J. Kalas
A very accessible introduction to the history and practice of Methodism that works well to hand to laity.
Dialogues: Amongst the People Called United Methodists – William Abraham
This is for Methodist insiders. And as David Watson states in his review, this book pulls no punches in its discussion of the state of the UMC today.
For the Sake of the Bride: Restoring the Church to Her Intended Beauty – Steve Harper
Harper’s plea for Christian unity is sincere and needed. However, Harper’s “modest proposal” to redefine Christian marriage in just a few pages with little reflection on scripture and tradition left this book lacking.
Reclaiming the Lost Soul of Youth Ministry – Jeremy Steele
A great discussion starter for a student or family ministry team on how to reclaim depth and a Wesleyan heritage back into your ministry.
The Radical Wesley – Howard Snyder
This updated version of an old classic highlights parts of John Wesley’s life and ministry in ways others rarely do. You’ll come away from reading this (especially Part 1) with a renewed appreciation for the early Methodists and for the work God did through them. You’ll also begin learning how to adopt their patterns and practices into the church today.
Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You – John Ortberg
The metaphor about the soul as a stream found at the beginning of this book is worth the purchase price. This book served as a good reminder of the importance of soul-care, and while I enjoyed it, most people in the class I taught it in loved it.
Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry – Paul David Tripp
While this book could’ve been fifty pages shorter, it does an excellent job living up to its title. If you’re married and in ministry, I’d highly recommend you read it with your spouse.
Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go – Adam Hamilton
A simple book on a complex topic that’s great for small groups or a sermon series.
Forgiving As We’ve Been Forgiven: Community Practices for Making Peace – Greg Jones & Célestin Musekura
A more complex book on a complex topic that helped me while preaching on forgiveness.
In the Name of Jesus – Henri Nouwen
This was the first Nouwen book I had ever read and it made me want to read more. He paints a beautiful picture of cruciform leadership that any Christian leader should aspire to.
Jesus Is Better than You Imagined – Jonathan Merritt
You can read my review here.
Not Yet Christmas: It’s Time for Advent – J.D. Walt
I love reading J.D.’s daily devotionals and this little book provided some needed preparation time for Christmas.
Too Busy Not to Pray – Bill Hybels
A good basic introduction to prayer full of practical advice for individuals.
What should I read this year?
Obviously I need more fiction in my life…