Lawrence W. (Larry) Wilson is a student of culture, passionate preacher, avid cyclist, and one of the best doggone writers I know (even if he does say so himself). Check out his blog at LawrenceWilson.com, where he also maintains a handy list of free and low-cost getaways for pastors and their families.
This was a good reading year in that I found a couple of books that greatly helped with two issues I’ve been exploring (church and culture; prayer).
I don’t read much fiction (only two titles this year). And in case you’re interested, about one-third of my “reading” was in audio format with another 10 percent in e-book format. (I prefer the Kindle app on my phone or iPad.)
10. Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception
Philip Houston, Michael Flayed, and Susan Carniceo with Don Tennant
This is fun, practical help for anyone who either manages employees or parents teenagers. The authors describe a simple technique for identifying indications of deception while interviewing anyone. And it really works. Don’t lie to me. Seriously. I can tell.
9. Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Search for God in America
Pastor, if you’re not thinking about the your response to homosexual people and their presence in the church, you’re just not doing your job. Chu writes as a gay Evangelical who visited a number of churches in various Christian traditions to discover their responses to the gay question. His experiences are fascinating and revealing, and pretty well written. Bottom line, you need a pastoral response to this issue, and this book can help you form one.
8. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
I’ve enjoyed some of Pressfield’s historical fiction, notably Gates of Fire, so I was intrigued by this nonfiction book on the life of a creative. His thesis is simple: there’s a devil inside you and you must defeat it every day in order to survive, let alone create anything of artistic value. He’s right. The value of this book is that it provides a clearer understanding of and language for the phenomenon of sloth, procrastination, idleness, or whatever you call that thing that keeps you from achieving your goals.
7. A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation
Diana L. Eck
Eck presents a survey of the religious diversity that currently exists in the United States and traces its development, particularly over the last 4o years. The value of this book is that it helps you see beyond your subculture and comprehend the breadth of religious change we’ve experienced as a nation. Warning: the book is a little like going to a movie thriller. It makes you uncomfortable, but that’s why you pay the money. This is an eye-opener, for sure.
6. Crossing the Ethnic Divide: The Multiethnic Church on a Mission
This book is a case study of one congregation and its journey to become multiethnic church. Two things recommend it. First, the congregation began as a minority (pan-Asian) dominated church so it’s interesting to see how similar their change dynamics are to a majority congregation. Second, the author nicely exposes the theological, sociological, and practical issues surrounding multiethnic ministry. I’m on a Christ and culture jag, so this book really hit the spot.
5. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home
Foster’s writing is always enriching, and this book is certainly no exception. The beauty here is that Foster presents not prayer techniques but types of prayers. You’ll come to a deeper understanding of what you are doing when you prayer, and how various prayers serve your growth in holiness. I’d like to re-read this book every year or two for the next little while.
4. Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence
David A. Livermore
I read this book to further my thinking on Christianity and culture and to prepare for a mission to Haiti. It was good help on bout counts. You won’t believe (1) how culturally bound your own practice of Christianity is, and (2) how fun it is to explore life and faith through the lens of other cultures. This book is a horizon widener.
3. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
This is the first book I’ve read by Anne Lamott. I know. I haven’t read The Hobbit yet either. The beauty of this work is its simplicity. You’ll find yourself saying these three simple prayers dozens of times a day. Really.
2. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
Every organization (church) must have absolute clarity about its mission, vision, and strategy. Who doesn’t agree, right? But Lencioni’s genius is identifying six questions, the answers to which provide that clarity for leaders and members. If you can’t seem to “get it together” in putting your church on mission, this book is a must.
1. Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend
Stanley makes a compelling case for our need to turn the church from outward, toward the world. This goes well beyond what we’ve come to know as “seeker sensitive” tactics; it is a new conception for what the church is and how it accomplishes its mission. The book has two great values. One is the conceptual foundation for what I now call Church 2.0—an outward-facing church. The other is practical help in creating that kind of congregation. If you only read one book this year other than the Bible, make it this one.