For the past few years I've posted my top favorite books of the year. Usually, I'll list my top 10, but quite frankly I didn't have ten this year to recommend. My list consists of seven books this year. I read a number of others that were good, but only seven of them really touched me. The list is in no particular order.
Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale examines one of the primary questions non-Christians have about the Christian faith. If God is truly all loving and all powerful why is there so much suffering in the world? It's a fair question and one that many Christians find difficult to answer. This book does an excellent job of providing answers to the question.
A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders by Reggie McNeal looks at how God shaped the hearts of four biblical leaders: Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. McNeal then shows how God is using the same influences to shape the hearts of religious leaders today. I found this book to be inspiring and humbling as it demonstrated how God works so personally in the lives of those he calls.
Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly is written by Mike Myatt for leaders who feel their performance falls short and wants to understand why. Written primarily for business leaders its principles are applicable for ministry leaders as well. For instance, when he writes, "Show me people who never change their minds, and I'll show you static thinkers who have sentenced their minds to a prison of mediocrity and wasted potential. If the world is constantly changing, if the marketplace is always evolving, if the minds of others are continuously developing, how can you attempt to be unchanging and still be relevant" his words are as applicable to ministry leaders as they are to anyone else. I found the book to be full of such challenging statements.
Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive is a wonderful little book by Thom Rainer. As Rainer examined churches that died he found several common issues that led to their demise. Many of these issues may be in your church. The good news is that there are ways to reverse each of these problems and turn a church from one that is dying to one that becomes vibrant once again. This is a book every pastor needs to read and use to periodically evaluate his or her church.
Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is the first John Piper book I've read. Some will be shocked by that admission, but it is the truth. It won't be the last. Piper clearly states the purpose of the book is "a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love. It is a plea to see thinking as a necessary, God-ordained means of knowing God." The book certainly challenged me and has changed the way I plan to read and study in the up-coming year.
There's Hope for Your Church: First Steps to Restoring Health and Growth is another excellent book by Gary McIntosh. It's easy to become discouraged when you pastor a church that is shrinking in numbers and showing little spiritual growth. However, the first thing that is needed is hope and the ability to see the potential that exists in the church. This is where McIntosh begins and from there shows practical steps that can be taken to turn your church around.
Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership is by John Maxwell. Regular readers of this blog knew that one of Maxwell's books would be on this list. This is his latest (I think!) and one of his best. He lists several reasons why leaders should always be asking questions and then shares the top ten questions people have asked him that had a positive impact on his life. He then shares questions a leader needs to ask himself or herself and then the questions he or she should be asking others. My copy is filled with underlines, highlights, and comments written in the margins.
I hope you will make reading a priority in 2015. Tomorrow I will list the books I'm currently reading and those sitting on my shelf waiting their turn.