One of the more ruinous aspects of my seminary education is that I emerged with both a degree and an addiction to books. As one who reads seven to ten books per month on average, I often find myself "going through the motions" of merely transferring information from pounds and pounds of former-trees into my fallen brain.
Occassionally, I read a book or other resource that piques my interest enough to reccomend it to another. But rarely do the contents of a book move me to reccomend it to any and all. This is why I find 2006 an odd year, because less than months into the appointments in my PDA, I have found at least one book per month to be (in my opinion) indispensable to pastors and church planters.
For the next two and a half weeks, I will be attending the Southern Baptist Convention, and then helping lead a team of over 300 volunteers from Maryland to Mississippi to help with hurricane relief. There are many others who will be "live blogging" from the Convention. (see www.sbcoutpost.com, and www.stevekmccoy.com, for just two examples) While I appreciate each of their unique perspectives, adding my own to cyberspace would likely only clutter up the place. Plus, I want to take the time when I'm not working on my SBC committee assignment and spend some quality time with the family, and I've discovered that laptop computers can pose a great barrier to familial intimacy.
To be sure, there are things worth writing about that I will address soon enough. Look for this site to become very active again around the first of July. For now, let me leave you with the following reccomended reading, which in sum is far more substantive than my own feeble contributions.
Each of the resources below is reccomended for various reasons, and I am certainly not endorsing all that you will read. But the information and inspiration to be gleaned from the following resources will be invaluable to pastors trying to get their arms around their ministries, as well as their contexts. Therefore, I reccommend the following as "must-reading" for the remainder of 2006.
Barna, George. 2006. Revolution.
I know, I know. The biggest complaint about this book is that is touts a very weak ecclesiology, and this complaint is legitimate! But sense when do we expect a statistician to articulate a robust understanding of such things?
The same rule that holds true for Barna's other works hold equally true for this one. If you read Barna as a theologian, you will either finish the book very angry, or very confused. However, if you read him for what he is (i.e. someone with his finger on the pulse of both the church and the culture), you will glean much-needed knowlege from his "descriptions", while taking his "prescriptions" lightly at best. Like his past works, this one is dead-on in its description of the context where the western church currently finds itself.
Murrow, David. 2005. Why Men Hate Going to Church
Anyone who thinks the church is "masculine" enough will find this book by Discovery Channel producer David Murrow very frustrating. But if you, like me, believe that many local churches have been stripped of their "guts," (or maybe even stripped of other body parts a few inches south of there), you will find this work a breath of fresh air. With breathtaking candor, Murrow speaks of why men don't lead, don't attend, and honestly don't care when it comes to local church participation. The careful theologian will find himself at odds with Murrow on a few points. But over all, this book presents a much-needed clarion call for the church to get back in touch with its masculine side!
Mahanney, C.J. 2004. Humility: True Greatness.
If you are wondering which book will best compliment your Bible as you do your private devotions this summer, I'd give this one a look. C.J. Mahanney is the embodiment of the very thing about which he writes, and the challenges he issues will have you looking beneath your manners, your public prayers, and your fained humble spirit in order to kill every last vestige of pride in your being.
Why is he so passionate about slaying this particular sin? If his definition of pride is anywhere near accurate, you will strengthen your focus to slay it too! Pride, according to Mahanney, is "when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence on Him." In short, Mahanney skips right past the "symptoms" of pride, which we so often mistake for th real thing, and helps the reader face the ugly nature of this gross sin for what it is.
Roberts, Bob. 2006. Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World.
If you are a pastor trying to grow your church and have Kingdom impact with a spiritually "empty tank," this book contains jet fuel! And Bob Roberts isn't just casting a vision for community transformation and global impact. He and his church are living it! You will be challenged afresh to reorient your thinking and that of your church concerning God's definition of "success" and "obedience." This book lays out solid and real pictures of the Kingdom of God on the move, and will be one of the most pleasant drinks you have ever had from a fire hose.
Stetzer, Ed and David Putman. 2006. Breaking the Missional Code.
I'll be finished with this one by week's end, but I'm already praying that pastors in my area will get this book so that they can "get" this book. Stetzer and Putman remind readers in chapter after chapter that our North American mission strategy now must be taken from the pages of veteran foregin missionaries. More than this, they give readers the practical steps neccesary to know their communities fully, and thereby reach them more effectively.
Look for a more complete review of this book in particular on this site later in the summer.
Well, one more day of work and I'm off to Greensboro! I hope to meet many of you there. As for the rest of you, pop in from time to time to post and say hello, or continue sending email my way. I hope everyone has a great summer!