As I (and many other bloggers) do as the year ends, here is a list of my top reads during 2014. Where possible, I’ll leave links to my reviews so you can get a better glimpse of the books, if so desired. This list is in no particular order.
1. Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, co-authored by Christopher Smith and John Pattison. As I said in my review of the book, this is one of the best books I’ve read in my 17+ years as a Christian, for it captures a lot of what I see the church called to in the present-day. It challenges a modernist approach to the life and discipleship of the church.
2. The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight Friesen. This is really somewhat of a companion book to Slow Church. It continues the path of laying out how we can be what I call a more “earthy” church, that is, living out the call to be the church in the local, neighborhood setting where we dwell, rather than heading off to the larger setting many a miles away with all the top-notch programs.
3. Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church by Scot McKnight. I will look at posting a review of the book just into the new year, but suffice it to say, McKnight challenges what he identifies as two main positions about the kingdom of God that exists within the evangelical church. Those two group positions are the pleated-pants and skinny jeans vision of the kingdom. And, even more, he looks to show how kingdom and church are pretty solidly synonymous within the Scriptural context. For a video intro to the book, check here.
4. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns. The premise of the book is that the Bible does not actually behave as nicely as many think it should or claim that it does. We have a Bible that offers a lot of tension, challenges, inconsistencies and contradictions. To argue Scripture doesn’t is to simply glance over what we actually find within the text or maybe, worse yet, to see it and then deny it. In my own review, I lay summarize two answers that I believe Enns’ looked to provide to students of the Bible.
5. Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good by N.T. Wright. As I shared just a few days ago, I received this book on Christmas Eve and I’m now about half-way through. It seems a book that summarizes his thoughts from a few other books, however with an emphasis on what the gospel is all about – not how to become a Christian, but rather an announcement of something else.
6. Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure by J.R. Briggs. Failure is not an easy word for pastors. Well, that’s probably true of most people! Of course, when many think of failure for pastors, their mind might typically imagine some grave moral failure. And, though, such is true at times, it is a small slice compared to the greater reality that pastors deal with concerning failure. After the challenges, and failures, faced during 5 years of pastoring, this book came as cup of refreshment to me. I share reflections in this post.
7. Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues by N.T. Wright. The book is somewhat unique as a published work by N.T. Wright. Rather than it being one solidly unified work flowing easily together, it actually contains 12 almost separate essays. Thus, I believe the book stands as somewhat distinct from his other 40+ published works thus far. What Wright has done is to take varying public lectures he has given over the past 10 years and turn them into a book, all to address many important topics in our world today. I share more in this review.
8. A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace by Brian Zahnd. The author has traveled a great path of change, moving from adopting a view of the sword towards one of embracing the gospel of peace as seen in the cross. Here is a poem – Out of the Corner of My Eye – that he wrote describing this change, which he includes in the book.
9. Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined by Jonathan Merritt. We are given a glimpse into Merritt’s own personal story that brought him to conclude Jesus is better than he had imagined. He writes in good story format along with authenticity, honesty and humor. And, if you know at least part of Merritt’s story, you know he can only be authentic and honest. There’s not much left to run from in his own life. His is the proverbial “open book.” That’s what I appreciate so much about him. I share more thoughts in this review.
10. Sycamore Row by John Grisham. I read a Grisham novel on an annual basis and this is one I enjoyed back in the summer – more here. Over the holidays, I’ve just begun reading his newest release Gray Mountain.