…besides the Bible, I mean. 🙂 (That one’s always in the picture.)
I have probably read more books in the past 18 months than I have in the previous 10 years. It has been a real season for reading, thinking, and processing for me. Amazon.com should give me an award or something. 🙂
Anywho, I’ve been thinking about my journey over the past couple of years, and pondering about how much change I’ve undergone in my thinking during that time–how God has de-constructed so many mindsets and expanded my perspectives in so many other areas. For anyone who has been reading this blog and thinking, What the HECK is going on in his head???…I figured I’d offer a sort of reading list to trace my journey.
Now, I’m not one who is easily convinced; I’m a natural skeptic, and I have to go over information and really own it before I repeat it. I tried purposely to veer away from streams of thought that I was familiar with (like Word-Faith and spiritual warfare); I wanted to see what was going on outside the normal streams. Some of these books sparked my thinking; some of them verbalized things I’d felt for a long time; some of them irritated me. Some things made me want to throw the book across the room; some things made me want to dance. (Be glad I didn’t. It wouldn’t be purty.) But pretty much all of these had some sort of part to play in where I am today.
- Revolution by George Barna. In this insightful book, pollster and researcher George Barna reveals current trends in the church and where he feels they will take us in the upcoming decades. This was the first book I ever read that openly talked about taking the practice of one’s faith beyond institutional Christianity. Very inspiring.
- Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 by Steve Stockman. I’ve mentioned this one before. I mention it now, not because you particularly need to follow U2’s spiritual journey, but because reading it painted a picture for me of what it might look like to follow Jesus without ever having been immersed in in the institutional church. Raw and messy, perhaps; but focused more on the works of Jesus than the proper church etiquette.
- Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Some very good spiritual insights couched in very non-spiritual language. And very, very funny.
- Messy Spirituality by Michael Yaconelli. A simple but encouraging read about Christians who don’t “measure up”–which is basically all of us.
- The Gospel According to Starbucks by Leonard Sweet. A good analogy between the experience-oriented mission of Starbucks and having a passionate, experiential faith in Christ. Some good insights on our current culture along the way.
- Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. A bit rough for my taste (lots of profanity) and questionable theology in spots; but reading the reflections of a believer who obviously sees the world very differently than I do added depth to my own journey and made me think about what I believe.
- Dear Church by Sarah Cunningham. Written as a series of letters to the church, these are insightful thoughts by a twenty-something preacher’s kid on the status of the church and how twenty-somethings view it.
- This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley. Written by Donald Miller’s pastor, this is a great look at seeing and participating in the Kingdom of God here on earth. (A bit different than some of the other “kingdom” stuff that has been written.)
- They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. I loved the insights in this book; the title pretty much speaks for itself. The Emerging Church, also by Kimball, is also a good read.
- The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch. Took me a long time to work through this one because it’s so rich; but this is probably the book that has most affected my thinking about church in the 21st century. Highly recommended.
- Jim and Casper Go to Church by, um, “Jim and Casper.” (aka Jim Henderson and Matt Casper) What an eye-opener. Jim and Casper (a long-time minister and an open-minded atheist) visited a wide range of churches across America (the churches are named within), and shares their insights. It is particularly interesting (and devastating) to see our church practices through the eyes of a non-believer.
- Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer. The reflections of a former career minister on the unlikely people in his path who have taught him more about God.
- Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. Having been forewarned about some questionable theology, I had some reservations going into this one; but with all the talk about it, I felt I needed to be at least conversant about it. It turned out to be one of my favorites. Bell does make some shocking statements that, taken alone, could seem like gate-openers to heresy (perhaps some unfortunate wording?). But putting those few statements in context with the entire book, I don’t think he was really going that way. It will make you think, anyhow.
- The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey. Written primarily for seekers and skeptics, this is a great look at how Jesus came not to establish a new religion, but to do away with religion as we understand it.
- And…as much as I hate to admit it…Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna has shaped my thinking as well. My critique of the preachy tone of the book can be found in this review. As an argumentative piece, I think it falls short, and I certainly don’t agree with many of its conclusions; but reading the origins and history of many of our common church practices was eye-opening and helpful overall. So in all fairness, I have to include it in the list. 🙂
There are numerous other titles I’ve been reading, but these are among the standouts. As a bit of a postscript–some of you emergent-church thinkers might notice that there are no titles by Brian McLaren on my list. Interestingly, McLaren is one author I have felt I needed to stay away from at this time. (Call it an inner witness, maybe.) Even before I heard about some of his more permissive theology in the opinions of some…I guess I felt that if one guy had written that many books about something that’s supposed to be new, it was already being turned into its own “camp”, and camps are something I’m trying to stay away from just now. Obviously, not having read him, I can’t form an opinion either way; just saying what my line of thinking has been.
So…any books on this list that you’ve read? What did you think? Any books you’d like to recommend?