My Ten Best Books of 2013 (#1)

Today's post is the first in a series that will run for the next month-and-a-half here on The Desperate Pastor. I've asked several of my pastor friends (yes, I have more than one) to list the "Ten Best" books they read in 2013 (to date, of course). Feel free to comment about any choices you agree with...or not.

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, 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
Jeff Chu

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 
Steven Pressfield

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
Kathleen Garces-Foley

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
Richard Foster

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
Anne Lamott

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
Patrick Lencioni

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
Andy Stanley

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.


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  2. Bob, thanks for the opportunity to submit my list. I look forward to seeing what you and other shave been reading this year.


    Why do preachers of the gospel quote men who pervert the Scriptures? Why would you ever quote these men in a positive light? Why would church leaders ever believe men who teach and preach doctrine contrary to Scripture are worthy of being quoted.

    Max Lucado Quote: "We never taught--the buzzphrase is baptismal regeneration, where you go into the baptistery lost and come out saved. We never taught that. Now, I am not saying there were not people in our church who believed that..."

    Water baptism is essential to salvation. (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21).

    Why would any serious church leader quote Max Lucado in a positive light?

    John Piper Quote: "We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross and quickens us with irresistible grace and brings us to faith."

    God want all men to be saved and all men have that choice.(2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.)(NKJV)

    Why would a preacher of the gospel quote John Piper in a positive light?

    Pope Francis Quote: "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists......."But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist!' But do good: We will meet one another there."

    Good works cannot save anyone. (John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.")(NKJV)

    How is it possible to quote Pope Francis in a positive light?

    Billy Graham Quote: "....or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they've been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that that don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they're going to be in heaven."

    Can you not believe in Jesus and be saved? (John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.")(NKJV)

    Tony Campolo Quote? "going to heaven is like going to Philadelphia... There are many ways...It doesn't make any difference how we go there. We all end up in the same place.(Carpe Diem: Seize the Day, 1994 pages 85-88)

    John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(NKJV)

    Why would preachers and teachers of the gospel quote men in a positive light who pervert the gospel of Christ?

    Why not just quote Scriptures?