Every year about this time I share a mid-season report of some of the books I've read this year. Today, I want to list five of the books I've read so far this year. They are not listed in any specific order but are books that have impacted my life and ministry. If you are looking for some reading to help you grow as an individual and a Christian, I would recommend these to you.
Grace Is Greater: God's Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story by Kyle Idleman. The author is currently the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, the fifth largest church in America. I recently read this book as part of my morning devotions. Idleman points out that God's grace is far greater than anything you have done or experienced. Sometimes those of us who have been Christians for a number of years forget just how powerful God's grace is. This book helped me rediscover that.
Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl. Beckwith is a professor of philosoply and Koukl is head of an organization dedicated to training Christian thinkers. This book is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to better defend their Christian beliefs. Their primary focus is on moral relativism, the belief that there are no absolute moral absolutes but everyone must be free to choose for themselves right and wrong. They powerfully demonstrate how dangerous such beliefs are when carried out to their logical conclusion. They write
For to deny the existence of universally objective moral distinctions, one must admit that Mother Teresa was no more or less moral than Adolf Hitler, that torturing three-year-olds for fun is neither good nor evil, that giving 10 percent of one's financial surplus to an invalid is neither praiseworthy nor condemnable, that raping a woman is neither right nor wrong, and that providing food and shelter for one's spouse and children is neither a good thing nor a bad thing.
And this is just in the introduction! Although moral relativism may be the mantra of our society today, it is an evil philosophy that is doing great damage. This book will help the reader address such a worldview when it is encountered.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Too many of us try to multitask in order to accomplish more. We believe if we can do several things at one time we will get more of our work done faster. I've certainly thought that in past years. Newport shows how such work is often shallow and actually leads to us accomplishing less. He writes, "To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction. Put another way, the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work." He then goes on to demonstrate how to shift from shallow work to deep work. This book is not written for ministers, but I found a lot in it that certainly transfers to what we do.
Taking Pascal's Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life by Michael Rota. Essentially, the Blaise Pascal Wager, as it came to be known, stated that if one accepted Christianity as true and learned at the end of his life that it wasn't, that he had not lost anything. On the other hand, if one rejected Christianity and came to the end of his life and learned that it was true, he has lost everything. Another way of looking at it is that if it is even 50 percent possible that Christianity is true it is rational for one to commit to living such a life. Rota builds on this argument and presents a powerful argument that Christianity is true. I will warn you...this is not a quick read, but it is a very worthwhile read. The book stretched me at times, and I grew as a result.
Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. Churches are called to do many things. One of them is to develop leaders, and it is in this task that too many churches fail. Leadership development requires intentionality and a commitment to the task. The authors insist, "Developing leaders must be a burning passion, a non-negotiable part of the vision of a local church and her leaders, or it will never become a reality." They go on to share several ways churches can go about leadership development.
It's always a dangerous thing to recommend a book because each of us have different needs and different books speak to different needs. Still, these are some books that I would certainly recommend to anyone in church leadership or anyone wanting to grow in their faith. Happy reading!