Must-Reads for 2013
Is there anything better than curling up with a good book (paper or e-ink) in a comfy chair, maybe by a crackling fire and with a mug of something warm in your hand? Maybe a few, but chances are it's in your top ten.
Since the week between Christmas and New Year's might be your best chance to live that dream, we wanted to offer you some "must-read" book recommendations from your fellow church leaders.
Story, His Story, and History
If you take a romantic approach to reading, it won't surprise you that a good number of recommendations came from a perspective that emphasizes God's story in Jesus and throughout time, and our own story as it fits into that grand narrative.
Starting with the source, Jeremy Mount emphasized his must-read, "Red letters throughout the gospels!!" (We should have said "other than the Bible . . .")
In that vein, several readers recommended books that advocate taking our cue in leadership from Jesus. Prototype by Jonathan Martin (to be released in 2013—we'll assume the recommending reader had an advance copy) asks the question "What happens when we discover we're more like Jesus than we think?" Unleader, by Lance Ford, emphasizes how Jesus contradicts most of the "effective leadership" models we are expected to follow today.
Beyond those, a few other recommendations for putting your story in context:
Know Your Story and Lead with It: The Power of Narrative in Clergy Leadership by Richard L. Hester. —Matt Kelley
I love reading biographies and autobiographies of past leaders. They are great teaching tools as well as humbling and powerful reminders about the enormous work behind and before us. –Becca Stevens
To understand religion in America in the 21st century, ministry leaders “must read” American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell. . . and Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass. –Martin Thielen
Mission and Vitality
On the more "practical" side of ministry reading are the books aimed at helping leaders improve their churches' vitality within and outreach beyond. A few recommendations:
Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Want to Attend by Andy Stanley —@guymwilliams via Twitter
10 Temptations of Church: Why Churches Decline and What to Do about It by John Flowers and Karen Vannoy. This one is some tough love for churches. Read it and pass it on! — Jessica Kelley
Missional Moves by Rob Wegner & Jack Magruder. This book will challenge every church leader to think differently about the way they approach missions and community impact. –Tim Stevens
Pastors may have responsibility for leading the spritual walk of others, but books enhancing one's own discipleship are nonetheless essential (and good for recommending to the people in one's care!) A few favorites of Ministry Matters contributors and editors included:
Holy Nomad: the Rugged Road to Joy, by Matt Litton. — Eric Van Meter
Too Busy Not to Pray, by Bill Hybels. It revolutionized my prayer life. — Shane Raynor
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, by Richard J. Foster and Addiction and Grace, by Gerald G. May. I refer back to each of these and recommend them to my small groups. — Betsy Hall
MaryAnn McKibben Dana's book, Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family's Experiment with Holy Time, is a wonderful resource for those who long to somehow "cheat time," but find themselves too busy, or bound by familial responsibilities. –Bromleigh McClenighan
McClenighan's own book, Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People, also falls into this category, putting people's existential questions in conversation with theological tradition and everyday life.
Yes, the man gets a category to himself, due to the disproportionate number of recommendations that came in for this prolific writer's works. (See the bin with a selection of his books.) I Am a Follower, Jesus: A Theography, and Jesus Manifesto (the latter two of which were cowritten Frank Viola) all got notable mentions.
Apparently, Sweet has also written a novel. The Seraph Seal, which seems like a cross between Nicholas Cage’s National Treasure films and The DaVinci Code. (Perhaps successful non-fiction authors writing fiction is a growing trend, as Will Willimon also has a novel out now: Incorporation,about corruption and intrigue in a small town megachurch.)
Whether you gravitate toward the leadership, spirituality, Christian living, or fiction section of your local bookstore('s website), we hope you find time to curl up with a good book soon.