In line with an annual tradition here at The Prodigal Thought, I’m listing my top reads from 2015. Due to the commitments of my doctoral studies and book, I was not able to provide my usual review of these. Nor was I able to dive into any fiction this year (until the holiday period).
The list comes in no particular order.
1. Transforming Mission by David Bosch. Standing in at a whopping 600+ pages, this tome covers the theological history of mission like no other I’ve come across. It’s a must read for anyone wanting to grasp both a deeper and broader perspective on mission. Here’s my review of the book.
2. Same-Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw. The author, Ed, is pastor of Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol, England. This book is an important one because of 2 reasons: a) He is a man who experiences same-sex attraction, though refraining from same-sex relationships. Thus, I believe he has much to offer in the conversation. b) In identifying 9 missteps that surrounds this important modern-day discussion, Shaw lays out one very important misstep on both sides: believing our sexuality determines our identity. I agree wholeheartedly! His own story can be seen in this short 5-minute video.
3. Flickering Pixels by Shane Hipps. Hipps is a very creative guy (he did follow Rob Bell as pastor of Mars Hill). Therefore, he takes a creative look at both the positives and negatives of the church’s engagement with and use of technology in our world today.
4. The Artisan Soul by Erwin McManus. This book challenges us to believe that all are created with an “artisan soul.” Even more, McManus argues, “Creativity is a natural result of spirituality.” I agree, mainly because I believe this true of God. Here are some brief thoughts of mine.
5. Theology in the Context of World Christianity by Timothy Tennent. This book is fantastic from the perspective of theological discourse arising out of a global context. The American church has an air of hegemony when it comes to theology and the Christian faith. While we have a history in the west, and America, that must be considered part of the Christian church’s story, we must be willing to learn from our sisters and brothers in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and more. It seems very much their day in the 21st century.
6. Global Pentecostalism by Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamaori. With a group of Christians hovering around the 600 million mark worldwide, one would expect Pentecostals and Charismatics to have a substantial impact across a host of areas. However, most would narrow this down to one particular area: certain spiritual gifts. While such an influence is true, this book takes a different angle by revealing how Pentecostals have had a great social impact upon the world.
7. Leading Cross-Culturally by Sherwood Lingenfelter. As one who has personally had Lingenfelter teach a session in my doctoral studies, it was great to experience his deep pastoral heart. The book looks to provide insights on how to become a faithful cross-cultural leader. This is shown through four overall points: a) inspiring people with kingdom vision and values, b) building covenant community and trusting relationships, c) showing pathways to empower those you lead, and d) recounting the practical challenges and positives of cross-cultural leadership.
8. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson. This was a re-read for me. I used it this past semester to point to how mission can lead to our spiritual formation, or growth. We normally look at it from the opposite angle – grow spiritually, then this will propel you into mission. I would advocate both angles are true. In specific, Peterson looks at how Christ “plays in ten thousand places” (a play off a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem) through the avenues of creation, history, and community.
9. Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach by Jane Vella. This work is important for me as a college educator. I still have much to learn and Vella was recommended to me by a professor of mine. She is known as one of the great proponents for dialogical education (education happens through dialogue). What she offers might be relevant not only for classroom teachers, but also church leaders/teachers.
10. A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly. This is one book I return to regularly. Kelly, a Quaker, is in the line of others like George Fox and Richard Foster. Accordingly, it’s a little devotional quite different from the popular ones on the bookstore shelves of today, calling for something deeper in our personal spiritual formation. Here are some recent thoughts on mine on the book.
11. God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu. The book is of a similar vein as spiritual classics like Richard Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline, and Dallas Willard’s, The Spirit of the Disciplines. Just as the saints of old have done for centuries, the book encourages the reader to develop a “rhythm in life” in order to help busy people enjoy the presence of God. As a fast-moving performer and doer, this is a challenge to me. Yet I recognize that setting a “rule of life” is an integral practice for spiritual growth.
12. The Vulnerable Pastor by Mandy Smith. A book by a woman pastor. “Hooray,” I say! I’ve only just dipped into the book at this point, but I have greatly appreciated the couple of chapters I’ve read thus far. Vulnerability is important for pastors, a holy vulnerability that draws us more into a calling of being set apart. Many times, this was a struggle for me while pastoring in Belgium – not necessarily because I didn’t want to be vulnerable, rather it was due to constant turnover within an international expat church setting. I believe anything on holy honesty and authenticity is a gem.
If interested, here are my top reads from the past few years: