favorite books of 2004

December 12, 2004

I set out at the beginning of this year to read a book a week. It seemed like a lofty goal, but I’m happy to say I’ve not only made it, but exceeded it. I’m not sure I will ever be able to do this again, because much of it has been the result of this season of life. Nonetheless, it has caused a lot of growth in my thinking. As the year draws to a close, I decided it would be good to evaluate what have been the best books I have read in the last year. As I looked over the list of books I’ve read, I asked myself which ones have stirred the most thought and helped shape my thinking. Which ones initiated thoughts that continue to swirl around in my mind? There were other books that did some of this, but these ten books, I think, did this to the greatest degree. I recommend any of them. Here they are, presented in the order in which I read them:

Love is the Killer AppLove is the Killer App, by Tim Sanders
I read this one way back in January, and it was one that inspired my hunger to read even more. Tim Sanders is a quirky guy if you’ve ever seen him speak, but his message is solid. He points out that the greatest way to succeed is not by competing with others in order to get ahead of them, but by loving them, and giving to them. He boils it down to three main points: 1) Knowledge – read a book a week and catalog what you learn so you always have something worthwhile to pass along to others; 2) Network – introduce people to each other who could benefit from a relationship with each other and expect nothing in return; 3) Compassion – take the time to personally care for those around you. Much of this is contrary to the typical business mindset, yet it has been received by many, including me, very well.

A Peculiar PeopleA Peculiar People, by Rodney Clapp
I probably comprehended less of this book than any other on the list, but what I got, I liked. 🙂 More than anything, this one helped develop in my some thoughts of what the church could and should look like, and gave words to some things that I had already been vaguely thinking. Perhaps my favorite chapter was one about evangelism. He argues that the best form of evangelism has been revivalism in the past, but that can be no more. Fewer and fewer people have some form of Christian past that churches can simply hope to restore.

The Connecting ChurchThe Connecting Church, by Randy Frazee
Having been at a mega-church for the last 10+ years, I have a great fondness for much of the ministry I’ve participated in and seen done here, and hundred and hundreds of people I’ve shared some degree of life with here. On the flip side, I’m also at a place where I wonder what the effectiveness of megachurches will be in the future. The Connecting Church gives a picture of how, I think, megachurches can continue to have a degree of effectiveness. It almost paints a picture of blending of both the megachurch and house church concept, though some might argue that it waters down both concepts too much. I like what it has to say, and there are many concepts I think are worth carrying over to any church setting.

The Emotionally Healthy ChurchThe Emotionally Healthy Church, by Pete Scazzero
I’m not a very touchy feely guy, so the title alone on this one had me a little bit queasy! As I got into this book, the queasiness went away. Churches are filled with messed up people, and the same problems that exist in the world seem to exist in churches. Scazzero makes a case that churches need to be serious about a genuine discipleship which will lead to people working toward emotional wholeness. As he says in the introduction: “The link between emotional health and spiritual maturity is a large, unexplored area of discipleship.”

Nothing SacredNothing Sacred, by Douglas Rushkoff
This is the book that ultimately inspired this blog, and I’ve already talked a bit about it here, here, and here. Much of what he says would be troubling to most readers of this blog, but that is okay. Rushkoff gives a critical evaluation of where the Jewish faith is today, and proposes how it needs to change in order to continue to be relevant today. It is quite eye opening to see one from another faith share his critiques, and then translate some of his thinking to your own faith.

Mere DiscipleshipMere Discipleship, by Lee Camp
Looking back, I’m surprised by how little I blogged about this book, because it was filled with great stuff. He hammers on what is lacking in today’s Christianity. He opens up describing that the missions success story of Rwanda turned into a bloodbath as up to a million Christians killed each other. If that is the result (or lack of) from what missions had turned into a primarily Christian nation, then what is wrong with our concept of and methods of discipleship? This was a challenging read for me, and one that some of the concepts from still trouble me, because I haven’t yet figured out what they are to look like in my own life.

The Gospel in a Pluralist SocietyThe Gospel in a Pluralist Society, by Lesslie Newbigin
This one might win an ugly cover competition, but that only proves you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. It generated several posts on the blog: here, here, here, and here. I will let those posts, combined with the fact that this one is nearing the status of a modern classic, speak on behalf of this book and say no more.

Searching for God Knows WhatSearching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller
This is another one that I’ve already posted some thoughts on, and will let those speak for it. On a side note, I also read Donald’s last book, Blue Like Jazz, this past year. This one would have easily made this list, but I decided not to have two books by the same author. I guess I could have…I could have said most people have a top ten list, but mine goes to eleven. 🙂

The Lost Message of JesusThe Lost Message of Jesus, by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann
I have spent much of the last few years growing in my understanding that the work of Jesus was (and is) not just so that I can go to heaven someday, but that it is to shape and give fullness to the way I live now. This book was, for me, and simplified understanding of much of the other reading that I have done on that topic. I consider it to be a fair summary of much of that and, therefore, one worth passing along to others. My recent blog entry about this book, and the ensuing comments, also led to a great email conversation with Conrad Gempf who has been quite helpful to me as well.

The Present FutureThe Present Future, by Reggie McNeal
This is a book that I would read with any church leadership team that I was trying to develop. I simply like what it has to say about the state of the church in North America, and some of the ways it needs to shift it’s methods and thinking. I blogged thoughts about this book here, here, and here. (On a side note, apologies to all of you who have ended up here through Google looking for the Texas A&M QB named Reggie McNeal — different guy!)

There you have them. Go buy them all, read them in the next few weeks, and tell me what you think! Use my links to these books and buy them from Amazon as well, so that I can have more gift certificate funds to go buy more. 🙂

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