5 Books that Shaped Me in 2016

This year has been a stacked one on the personal side. I graduated with my doctorate, so finishing my dissertation took all of my attention in 15-16. Seriously. I underestimated how much of a time theif read and writing a dissertation would be. Let’s be honest – I’d read entire books to write a sentence with logical fallacies littered throughout. Then I’d have to re-read and then re-write that sentence to make any lick of sense! But that’s for another day.

Knowing that my attention was going to be spread thin, I resolved to set a modest goal of reading 25 books in 2016. To be honest, I’m a little embarrasssed at how few books I read this year, but I also didn’t anticipate writing a book in 2016. I had planned to write the book in 2017, but well, when a publisher agreed so quickly to publish the book, my attention had to be diverted! Thus, I read fewer books read than I wanted, but that’s what happens when life happens!

In all, I ended up reading 36 books. I know, the shame!!

But its not always the number of books you read but the impact a book makes that matters. To be real honest, it’s never been a book that shaped me, but sentences (or paragraphs) that impact me. Nonetheless, I wanted to share 5 of the books that shaped me in 2016. I’ll never forget my Granddaddy saying to me, “Be careful what you read, because it will shape you in one way or another.” He went on to say, “Whatever books you read, read the Bible more.”

He was right.

Even when I disagree with an author, it shapes me. You can’t help sentences in books shape you! At any rate, here are the five books that shaped me this past year with a little reason why:

1. Old Paths, New Power, by Daniel Henderson

A friend at another church recommended that I read this book. You. Must. Read. This. Book. I can not tell you how many times I’d be in a conversation with another person and some how this book would come to mind. I just might re-read it this year to keep my prayer life sharp! The profound emphasis to pray, and the conviction and resolution. You need to add this to your list! One of my favorite paragraphs was:

“A Prayer: ‘Lord, all my life I have been striving to be a powerboat for Christ. The hull of my type-A personality is cutting through the waters of ministry. I’ve had my hand on the throttle of effective leadership principles. I’ve filled my tank with the high-octane insights of a seminary education. I seemed to be making an impression with my visionary style. But … Forgive me. From this day forward, would You teach me what it means to be a simple sailboat?'”

“Of course, my mind was surging with the reality that a simple sailboat does not bring glory to itself but to the power of an unseen force propelling it along. It is dead in the water unless the wind blows. I knew the course might be a little unpredictable because of the nature of the “wind,” but I was tired of trying hard to be a high-impact leader. I knew in the depth of my soul that God was revealing to me a better and more fruitful way.” (pg. 60)

2. Great Evangelical Recession, by John Dickerson

Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t know if was the particular season I was in, but this book struck a chord for me. His insights as to the tenor of the thinking of evangelicals in America were on point and helped me understand some of the “issues” facing my own church. I suppose, this book gave me a prophetic voice in my own church. Here are a few paragraphs that influenced me:

“In Jesus’ terminology, we are failing at discipleship. That is, we are failing at the core command Jesus gave to His followers. This is what matters, and if these numbers are correct, we are failing at it. Jesus did not call His church to build buildings or websites or worship services. He called His followers to “make disciples…” [And] many parents rely too heavily on the church to do discipleship. [Schadt’s] research found that teens can handle and hunger for more substantial teaching than most youth groups give them.” (pg. 106)

“The key is faithful men and women who have found life in Christ. These faithful men and women are the engines of the church. On the heels of the 20th century, we often assume the “faithful” need to be vocational employees of the church. But we do not see that in the New Testament…In short, the solution is disciples. Not dollars.” (pg. 173)

3. Gaining by Losing, by J. D. Greear

Guys – talk about a mental shift. Undoubtedly, the impact of Greear’s ministry is vast. His church has grown exponentially and not because they’ve attracted a big crowd – they have – but also because they have intentionally sent out people from their church to plant other churches. This is the premise of the entire book – you will grow when you “lose” or send out people for the work of ministry.

“We live by losing. We gain by giving away. What we achieve by building our personal platform will never be as great as what God achieves through what we give away in faith.” (pg. 18)

“A “sending” ministry always starts with a heart exam. Sending out people and giving away your resources, you see, will most often compete with your church’s “bottom line,” not benefit it.” (pg. 44)

“For those of us in the Western church, I think we are at a crucial decision point. I love seeing big audiences gathered to hear the gospel, but if we want to reach the next generation, we are going to have to equip our people to reach them outside the church.” (107)

4. Jesus Outside the Lines, by Scott Sauls

Scott Sauls has done a masterful job of showing the way of Jesus in a very much divided culture. Sometimes, the teachings and way of Jesus isn’t “inside the lines” but colors “outside the lines.” This book was particularly relevant as I thought about our political sequence. In a place and culture where you were either THIS or THAT, sometimes it’s BOTH, AND, rather than EITHER, OR.

“There is something incredibly attractive and inviting about people who stop pointing fingers and posing and pretending to be totally good and totally right, and instead start taking themselves less seriously and openly and freely admit that they are not yet what they should be.”

“What does it look like for Christians to live out Jesus’ Kingdom vision in our daily lives? It looks like taking care of widows and orphans, advocating for the poor, improving economies, paying taxes, honoring those in authority, loving our neighbors, pursuing excellence at work, and blessing those who persecute us.”

5. Next: Pastoral Succession that Works, by William Vanderbloemen

This book was helpful for a number of reasons. First, it made me think about my tenure as a pastor. What are successful tenures, what aren’t. And how does a pastor help a church have successful pastorates. Second, the analytics and research found was incredible. Many of the churches referenced were churches I personally knew of and had experience with – so that was fascinating.  Finally, a word of caution – this book was much more pragmatic than it was seen as measuring faithfulness in ministry.

That being said, I loved how this book walked thru many of the complexities and intricacies of church dynamics and pastor leadership! There are many. But this book was helpful for me to see what my role will be in the shaping of the culture at First Baptist Church, Bellville… and how I can help her be the best she can.

“Every pastor is an interim pastor. Few ministers consider that truth. Few are eager to admit that their time with their present church will one day end. But ultimately, all pastors are “interim” because the day when a successor takes over will come for everyone in ministry. Planning for that day of succession may be the biggest leadership task a leader and church will ever face. It may also be the most important. There’s an old saying: “Everyone wants to talk about succession . . . until it’s their own.” For way too long, the subject of succession has been avoided in the church, in pastors’ gatherings, and even in the pastor’s home. Those in leadership may not talk about it, but succession happens anyway.” (pg 9).

Hope you enjoyed my list!