Another year has ended. It’s time to name the best books of 2012. As I’ve said again and again, choosing early on to read for spiritual growth was one of the best habits I’ve ever formed. I hope one of the books I mention here tempts you to read for spiritual growth also.
I make a point of reading 4 types of books – devotional, ministry, theology, and leadership. These books shape my heart, skills, mind, and influence, respectively. Alright, let’s jump to the fun part…
My Favorite Reads of 2012 –
My Devotional Pick:
Love Does by Bob Goff
This is a memoir of sorts. Weaving together life experiences and lessons learned, Bob Goff proves to be a master storyteller. This book is hilarious but you’ll walk away with a desire for a faith that’s bigger, bolder, and way more fun. You’ll love it, I promise.
We need to stop plotting the course and instead just land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting to the “do” part of faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.
My Ministry Pick:
Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley
This is a gutsy book. Picking it up, I expected to hear how Andy Stanley’s church got started and how their ministry model works. And he details both in great detail.
But I think that’s just a ruse. His real aim, I think, is to confront church leaders with the question of whether your church is really concerned about reaching unchurched people or not again and again and again. That’s where it gets gutsy. Consider this, for example:
If the primary thing bothering you about your church is that you lack the cool factor and therefore young families don’t stick, you’ve got some work to do. If your sudden compulsion to change is fueled by your board’s observation that people are leaving your church to attend the contemporary church down the street, that’s not enough. If your burden isn’t any deeper than a desire to update and upgrade so people won’t leave, you’re better off babysitting the previous generation’s model.
Reading this 2 years after launching ClearView reaffirms the value of doing church in a different way and gives us some good next steps. If it had been around several years ago, who knows, we might have pulled the trigger even sooner.
My Theology Pick:
Making the Best of It by John Stackhouse
While my other picks are just published, this one came out back in 2008. I finally got around to reading it in preparation for a series about politics. Six months before the election, I taught for a few weeks about how politicized (i.e. obsessed with and polarized by politics) life has become and how to remain Jesus people in a political culture.
My hope was that the series would increase thoughtfulness about political engagement, enable respect for those with whom you or I disagree, and remind us that our hope is in Jesus and his kingdom.
If that sounds like a minefield, you are quite correct. After sweating many bullets, the series came together to very good effect. All that said, no book was more helpful to me than this one by cultural theologian John Stackhouse. Asking the question, “Who are we to be for Jesus Christ today?” Stackhouse reminds us that our choices make a real difference.
We have faith in the God of paradoxes who, on the jumbled landscape of our broken world, draws straight with crooked lines. We trust that the God who specializes in bringing good out of evil will make something beautiful out of our efforts to love him and our neighbors in creation.
My Leadership Pick:
The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
This book explains why some organizations remain healthy while others are mired in dysfunction. While you and I know that churches never struggle with dysfunction (wink, wink) you may find this useful nonetheless.
The part I appreciated the most, and have used with my leadership team, is his list of six questions that must be answered to create clarity within a team, church, business, or organization. They’re so simple you’ll be amazed how hard it is to answer them succinctly – Why do we exist? How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is most important, right now? and Who must do what?
Alignment is about creating so much clarity that there is as little room as possible for confusion, disorder, and infighting to set in.
Ok, those are my picks. I’d love to hear what you’ve enjoyed lately, or what you’re diving into next!