I have never considered myself much of a reader. I’m typically slow to read through a book and when I do have a moment to sit down with one of the two-dozen books on my “to read” shelf, I usually doze off about 3 pages in. Nevertheless, I still managed to get through a number of books this year, most of them dedicated to topics surrounding church planting (no surprise). So here it is, my top 5 books from 2017:
5. Church Unique by Will Mancini
Hat’s off to Will Mancini for taking church leaders and pastors from the Great Commission to living the Great Commandment while leveraging the God-given uniqueness of your leadership, cultural context, and burden for Kingdom advancement. I have given a lot of thought to visionary leadership including mission statements and core values, but Mancini brings it to a whole new level, adding clarity and offering freedom to be exactly who God wants our church to be. I recommend this book to any church leader that is considering or in need of re-tooling their mission and purpose in their community.
4. The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaeffer
Ok, even I was able to finish this book in one sitting. This little 50-page book will strike you to the core. Schaeffer’s premise is simple: Christians are defined by their faithful obedience to the Great Commandment to love their neighbor. This is a fantastic read for everyone on the journey to follow Jesus.
3. Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis
A pastor friend of mine recently handed this book to me and said, “Be careful, this might just mess you up.” With some skepticism, I took the challenge. He was right. Medearis, through personal stories and a straightforward prescription, takes his readers on a journey to remind them of the simplicity of being a Jesus-follower and how that should shape the way we “do” (or not do) evangelism. I’m sure that if Medearis and I were to sit down and discuss the specifics of our theology we would agree on much, but not everything. But this is also the point of his book. Christians have huddled into their theological camps and forgotten their first love and source of life: Jesus Christ. His story in chapter 10 from his interaction with Muslims in Iraq will bring you to tears. Dare to take the challenge?
2. Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal
So if my third book doesn’t get me in trouble with most friends in my evangelical circles, this one for sure will. McNeal’s book is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the Christian that loves their building, programs, worship band, popular book-writing pastor, Awana nights, vacation bible school, or K-Love. Quite honestly, I hesitate even mentioning this book for fear of being labeled a liberal-Christian. McNeal’s thoughts resonate strongly with those feeling disenfranchised and unfulfilled with a church that has sold-out to and embraced a Western ideology that puts the institution above the individual that Jesus came to die for. I don’t recommend this book to everyone. Most can’t handle it, trust me. As a starter I recommend reading Radical by David Platt. Our church plant team is going to be studying Platt’s book beginning in January to get our heads and hearts around this concept of living a life on mission.
1. When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
This right here is where it’s at. If you are burdened by or questioning the reasons behind the endless plight of poverty in your neighborhood and across the world, this is for you. This is a practical handbook with a solid Reformed theological foundation to address the root problems of poverty and real gospel-centered solutions. As a matter of fact, we’re modeling much of the practical ministry of Restoration Church to align with the solution-oriented models addressed in Corbett and Fikkert’s book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has given more than $1 to the Red Cross, World Vision, Unicef, Compassion, or your favorite relief organization.
By the Cross. For the Kingdom.