Fairly often I’ll have someone ask me what I’m reading. It’s embarrassing that I can only remember what I’m currently slogging through. Then along came my traveling library in the form of a Kindle; I got one just about a year ago. Okay, don’t judge me: I also have an iPad…an extravagant gift some folks gave me. What’s great is the Kindle app on it: all my books transfer. So if you’re familiar with the commercials, I can read in the brightest sunlight...or pitchblack! Ain’t technology wonderful?
I also read a fair amount (okay, a lot) of pop culture websites as well as mainstream magazines from Wired to Fast Company to Time just so I can have a reasonable conversation with people about the world we live in. I also have subscriptions to Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, Relevant, Sojourners and Outreach.
The following is what’s currently on my Kindle and what I’ve read over the last year:
• The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective; Russell D. Moore. Solid book on how critical embracing a Kingdom-theology is along with a recent history of evangelicalism and a Kingdom-orientation. An evangelical, Moore seeks common ground regarding social and political hot buttons.
• Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: a Sociologist Shatters Myths Form the Secular and Christian Media; Bradley R. E. Wright, PhD. Just started reading this and thoroughly enjoying it. For instance, I’ve long been suspicious of Barna and doubted their analysis of their own stats. I think I’m just tired of fear-based messages; perhaps the sky isn’t actually falling.
• To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World; James Davison Hunter. Loved, loved, loved this book! I wish everyone in the Vineyard would read this one. His sharp social-theory commentary and research, particularly on the politicization of the American culture, is spot-on in my opinion. It actually makes me feel good about our particular tribe (despite some convicting moments in the book) and makes me feel that his “faithful presence” approach is in our DNA.
• Mansions of the Heart: Exploring the Seven Stages of Spiritual Growth; R. Thomas Ashbrook. A retooling of Teresa of Avila’s spiritual formation thinking in “Interior Castles”. Teresa was a bit of a mentor to St. John of the Cross (of “Dark Night of the Soul”-fame). Interesting thoughts from a confessed Type-A pastor.
• Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back; Frank Schaeffer. You’ll need to take a shower after this one. Frank (son of evangelical icon Francis Schaeffer) has written a gossipy tell-all that feels like an E Channel documentary filled with f-bombs and irreverent humor. He’s a troubled soul…but no wonder if half of his family history is true.
• The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond; Bill Hybels. Hearing from the Holy Spirit is not the unique domain of classic charismatics! How about a Dutch Reformed pastor? As John Wimber used to say, faith is spelled r-i-s-k…and this book is filled with stories of risky obedience to the promptings of the Spirit. You have to admire the scope and influence Willow Creek has had on the Church. On a personal level, I asked Bill why he invited me to speak at Willow a couple of years ago because, as I told him, “no one knows who the heck I am.” He simply said, “I felt prompted by the Spirit.” He smokes what he sells. Plus, I like any Christian book that has the word “guts” in the title.
• Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die; Dan & Chip Heath. Simple theory and practicals on what makes certain concepts/ideas/products memorable. It’s disposable business literature but interesting.
• The Leadership Challenge; James Kouzes & Barry Posner. A true classic. I re-read it periodically. Reminds me of what I want to be when I grow up. Should be on every leader’s must-read list.
• Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There; Gary McIntosh. Straightforward primer for understanding how both the age and the life-cycles of church creates barriers for growth. You either like this stuff or not. Good intro into this genre.
• The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of The Christian Faith; Tim Keller. Keller’s got some great insights on the prodigal son story; he artfully juxtaposes the problem with running from God and manipulating His love with moral behaviors. Highly recommended for those who are burned out on religion. Love this line: “Both the worldly life of sensual pleasure and the religious life of ethical strictness fail to give the human heart what it is seeking.”
• The Me I Want to Be; John Ortberg. Joe Boyd really liked this book. Just starting it.
• Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time; Sarah Ruden. Loved the premise: a female Quaker scholar of Greco-Roman classic literature decides to study Paul through the cultural context of Paul’s literary peers. She began the study with her personal paradigm of Paul as a misogynistic, sexually repressive egotist who perverted Jesus’ message. After her study, she did a one-eighty. Warning: her colloquial translations of some classics border on mild pornography; it’s an eye-opening experience into ancient culture.
• Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion; Gregory Boyle. A priest tells gritty stories of his gang-intervention ministry (Homeboy Industries) in L.A. County. Hold in tension the raw language and almost over-attempt to be relevantly hip with his incredibly selfless and difficult work with gangs—this guy has done 169 funerals since 1988. Street cred galore.
• The DNA of Relationships; Gary Smalley. Hey, it’s a free download. Haven’t started yet.
• After You Believe; N. T. Wright. This one and Surprised By Hope have been my favorites from Tom Wright. This line alone makes me want to stand up and march: “Jesus came, in fact, to launch God’s new creation, and with it a new way of being human…” (is he listening to old Switchfoot…?) and “Jesus believed and taught that humans in general, including God’s people Israel, had a sickness of heart which all attempts at self-betterment could not touch.”
• The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity; Soon-Chan Rah. Oh yeah. This one will provoke and punch. His case for real cultural diversity and upsetting typical white evangelical assumptions is good for the soul. His picture of evangelical western ‘cultural captivity’ is expressed as individualism, consumerism/materialism and racism. Amen.
• Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands; Nancy Ortberg. Another freebie. Nice, conversational thoughts on leadership/management; reads like it was transcripted from workshops.
• Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home; Richard Foster. I love Foster’s pure, personal and devotional approach to writing. He makes me want to pray without feeling guilty.
• Drive; Daniel Pink. I read this before Pink spoke at the Leadership Summit and was completely intrigued. People got tired of hearing me quote from it. You can get the gist of it in this great little video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc
• Myth of a Christian Nation; Gregory A. Boyd. Helpful book for those struggling with (or tired of) the politics of nationalism. Nice introduction on how the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world clash. You may not agree with everything, but I think true conversion to following Christ begins with this mindset.
• Prayer of the Faithful: Understanding and Creatively Leading Corporate Intercessory Prayer; W. C. Huffman. I was looking for something on corporate intercession with a bit of liturgical feel. Not all that helpful for our context, but my favorite quote is this: “When Luther cut back the enormous growth of the medieval mass, his pastoral intincts led him to simplify forms of prayer and song. In limiting the lengthy gradual to two verses, he suggested that those interested could sing the over verses at home. (Take note, all us Vineyard worships leaders!) …(Luther) wrote: ‘In church we do not want to quench the spirit of the faithful with tedium.’”
• Axion: Powerful Leadership Proverbs; Bill Hybels. Always engaging and motivational, you may not agree with every short learning, but it will certainly fire your reflective jets on your own leadership.
• The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church; Alan Hirsch. Just downloaded this last night after reading a few pages at Jason Scott’s house. Piqued my interest and I’m not familiar with Hirsch’s writing.
• Outliers: The Story of Success; Malcolm Gladwell. Yeah, he’s ubiquitous. Regardless of what you think of his analysis, dang…he’s a good storyteller. Never boring. And I love that he touches on race issues in such a backdoor way.
• The Apostle Paul and Women in the Church; Don Williams. Don’s a Vineyard scholar. If you’re egalitarian (I am), you’ll enjoy this. Good primer to the problem of women’s roles; for example, he uses the ‘life source’ rather than the ‘lordship’ interpretation of Ephesians 5:23. The cultural book references are a little dated, but the material is well written. Not sure if this would settle any argument or is the ultimate apologetic, but it will get you thinking.
• Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer; Ken Wilson. Ken (our regional overseer) is the best-kept secret in the Vineyard movement. He makes tough ideas, concepts and practices accessible. His personal journey of prayer and wealth of experience in community makes “divine hours” prayer (as an example) not only practical but attractive for us ‘can’t-sit-still’ ADD-driven, prayer-guilted folks.
There you go. Not sure if these are all hearty recommendations for everyone, but it’s been interesting reading for me.