Inspired by my former colleague Steve Bedard, I thought I would share with you all a list of the books that have most impacted me this past year. In no particular order, they are:
- Invitation to a Journey (Robert Mulholland) – One of the best books on spiritual formation I’ve ever come across, Mulholland covers the nature of spiritual formation, how our personality influences it, the spiritual disciplines that make it practical, and how to do it communally and not just individually. I first read this book in 2000 and frequently come back to it for choice bits when I teach, but I re-read it in its entirety this year. There was so much great stuff that I didn’t remember in it. I suppose I just wasn’t ready for it back then. Of course, just after finishing it, I discovered there is a revised edition published in 2016 with lots of extra goodness by his student, Ruth Haley Barton, so be sure to read that version.
- A Testament of Devotion (Thomas Kelly) – Widely considered a modern spiritual classic, I thought this book was pretty good until the last chapter, which blew my mind. It gave me a model for integrating evangelism/discipleship ministry and social action/justice ministry – something I’ve been seeking out for years now.
- Community and Growth (Jean Vanier) – I’ve been doing a lot of reading on intentional Christian community (as will be evident in the next few books). Hands down, the very best of them is this one. Written after decades of experience founding and then supervising the dozens of L’Arche communities around the world, it is both profound and intensely practical. This book will be read for centuries to come.
- Life Together in Christ (Ruth Haley Barton) – A great book on realizing the potential of two things the church classically over-promises and under-delivers: community and spiritual growth. This was one of those books that presented very little that was actually new for me, but the way she presents it is phenomenal. I’ll be using this one in my teaching for a long time.
- Being Church (John Alexander) – Another book on community, his chapters on the nature of the church and its ministry profoundly impacted me. His early death was a great loss to the Christian world.
- Alternative to Futility (Elton Trueblood) – One last book on community – I promise! Written three years after the end of World War II, Quaker philosopher Trueblood wrote an amazing diagnosis of what is wrong with modern Western society and how small Christian societies of redemption are the cure (see the last two blog post for more details). Easy to read, wisely practical, deeply profound and short – this book has it all.
- Hearing God in Conversation (Sam Williamson) – Like Barton’s book, this book didn’t introduce any new content for me, but the way Sam put it together and his integrity in only writing what he has personally experienced are remarkable. The single best volume on how to really hear God I’ve ever encountered. This, too, will be in my ministry toolbox for a long time.
- Becoming a Blessed Church (Graham Standish) – We don’t often think of spiritual discernment when it comes to committees and church governance, but Graham has been doing it for years at his church. The fact that it is a mainline Presbyterian church is even more remarkable still. A must-read for lead pastors and board members.
- Faith on the Streets (Les Isaac) – Almost unknown in North America, the phenomenon of Street Pastors has swept through Britain in recent years. Although only started in 2003, there are now 12,000 street pastors in 300 municipalities across the UK. Street Pastors are trained volunteers who wander the club district, helping people in need and praying for anyone who asks. They are very highly regarded by club owners and bouncers, police, local government, and the people on the street. A great read for those looking for ways to engage with the local community in a way that is both immediately helpful and yet faithfully Christian.
- The Strategically Small Church (Brandon O’Brien) – As a member of a very small church, I often felt that all I could see is what we lacked. O’Brien delivered me from this despair and gave me practical advice on how to take advantage of the unique advantages of our size. Essential reading for pastors and leaders of small churches.
December 22, 2016 at 11:42 pm
Thomas Kelley was a Quaker and one of my favorite spiritual writers. I love Vanier’s Community and Growth, and it took on new meaning when I re-read it while living as a member of L’Arche GWDC.
December 23, 2016 at 9:25 am
I envy you your time at L’Arche
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December 23, 2016 at 11:51 am
You can still get involved, I’m not sure if there’s a community near you