5 Books that Shaped me in 2013

This past year has been the most difficult in the reading department. Not because I’ve failed to read, rather, I’ve been required to read MORE than ever. Many of you do not know this, but I’m in the writing stage of my prospectus which will soon, Lord willing, include my dissertation. Therefore, I am reading lots and lots of dissertations, and heady books that the general public more than likely is not interested. My point is that you can’t find what I’m reading at Mardel or Lifeway. If you catch my drift.

I did a similar book reflection last year, you can read it HERE, and it was warmly received.  For this year, I’ll just share a few of my favorite “outside reading” and then a couple from my dissertation that I think are significant works for my project. These are in no particular order, just in the order that I was thinking of them.

1.    Church Unique – by Will Mancini

This book was transformational for me, and I believe, for our church. Seriously. I think I recommended it to every pastor I talked to this year. It’s a book that sets the table for you and your staff to engineer a vision and action plan that is “unique” to you. Many pastors will see a great vision statement and slap it on their church. What is common place in “churchdom” is for pastors to have spiritual heroes who then have churches that are highly esteemed. These young, or small church pastors often then, copy. The problem is that one church’s vision probably is not another’s. My church is not going to be an “urban center reaching city-kids.” We live in the country. I walk down the street and I see sheep, horses, and cows.

But our church DOES have vision… so what is it? Well, head over to fbcbellville.org and check it out! But my point is that Church Unique helps a staff and possibly a church tease out mission/vision/values, etc. I think no matter what stage of life your church is in, this book is a must read.

2.  The Call of Jesus – by Derek L. Worthington

If you were to ask me to put my finger on why this little book so registered with me, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But Derek’s ability to say something that the Holy Spirit used to pierce the heart repeatedly, was well, a gift. For instance: “The church is doing a lot of things well. Making disciples of Jesus is not one of them.” or “Over and over and over, Jesus invites people away from what they can do on his behalf and into what he has done on theirs.”

I mean, it just was a strong message about discipleship and setting the table in our church with a laser-beam focus. As a Pastor, I needed this book, but I also needed it as a Christian. It’s a quick read, but trust me, it’s worthy.

3.  Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being – by Zack Eswine

This, by far, has been the most moving book I’ve read all year. I’ve cried, laughed, and repented of so much sin because of this book. It seems Zack will say one thing and I become an emotional basket case – or stare off into the distance in meditation of a truth I needed to hear. Pastoring my first church is no easy task, and Zack comes alongside me and speaks truths and sins I’ve committed, but with grace and humility and care. God has used Zack’s words to comfort me, but also encourage me.

One of my favorite paragraphs from his book:

“After six years at Grace, I went to teach preaching at seminary. I dreamt there too, but those dreams were not to be. In fact, I am not what I thought I would have been by now. I do not mean this morbidly. I hope you will soon see that I am writing to you as one who feels profoundly rescued from himself by the abounding grace of Jesus. But the stale waters of celebrity, consumerism, and immediate gratification had infiltrated my drinking water, and I did not realize it. I fear a lot of us don’t.”

I LOVE this paragraph…. and thus, this book. But you should read this book if not for the last chapter alone. You’ll be blessed.

4.  Paul the Missionary – by Eckhard J. Schnabel

This work from Eckhard is a piece of work. Seriously. It’s a massive edition to any library, but it may not be for the “everyday reader.” I say that because he dives into the nuances of Paul’s strategy as a missionary, how he preached the gospel, and his conversion (not in that order of course). It’s a thick and hearty treatment of Paul’s life and work. It will be helpful for me in writing as he gives some helpful outlines to Paul’s sermons in Acts.

One of my favorite summarizations of Paul’s preaching was found here: “In the course of providing his listeners basic instruction in the theology of Israel, Paul used the intellectual, philosophical and linguistic traditions of his audience in a twofold manner: as bridgehead for the proclamation of Jesus the Savior of the world, since he knows their religious customs and their educational values, and as an indication that he takes them seriously as discussion partners who are willing to listen to his teaching.” 

The above is important as this shows Paul’s evangelism strategy – context (who are they), and content (tell them about Jesus). Again, at 517 pages, this isn’t something you’ll just “pick up” and read, but if you do – you’ll be blessed.

5.  Paul’s Missionary Method’s: In His Time and Ours – Ed. Robert L. Plummer & John Mark Terry

This is a collection of writings as a reflection from Roland Allen’s famous work, Missionary Methods. This book covers religious and historical settings of a variety of things: Paul himself as a missionary, the gospel, his view of the church along with church planting, missions and the mission of the church. Each person evaluates Paul’s strategy of church planting and whether it should be modeled today, and end with an approach to contextualization of the gospel in his time and ours.

This is important as we try to find a pattern of Paul’s preaching and how we can then approach our messages as we engage culture. One of my favorite quotes was actually in regard to WHY Paul was a follower of Jesus: “Paul is a follower of Jesus and a missionary not because of a personal decision by which he volunteered to preach the gospel, but on account of the grace of God who forgave his sins, who effectively convinced him of the significance of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and who summoned him to proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ.”

It’s a great work. You should definitely check it out.

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Well, there ya go. I’ll be reading a ton this year, again, but I hope this served you well. If it didn’t, well… I’m sorry?