Here are my Top 10 books for 2018. Not in order of enjoyment but in the order I read them.
Martin Luther: The man who Rediscovered God and changed the world – Eric Metaxas
Now I’m slightly cheating on this one because I began reading it in 2017. However, I read most of it in January 2018 and if you know anything about Metaxas’ biographies they are not small books. So I’ve sneaked this one in and primarily because I loved it so much. Its one of my favourite books of the past five years. We referenced it in some of our sermon series ‘The 5 Solas’ which you can find here https://www.lifecentrechurch.com/fivesolas. Martin Luther is another exceptional book from one of the great writers in our generation. Metaxas is thorough, as he was with his biography on Bonhoeffer, as he captures the incredible story of the young monk named Martin Luther who turned the Medieval world on its head with the truths found in scripture and scripture alone.
Portraits of a Pastor: The 9 Essential Roles of a Church Leader – General Editor Jason K Allen
This is a book where a different author writes each chapter. These types of books always take on a different flavour of their own. And this book is no different. The big idea is calling church leaders back towards a healthy biblical view of leadership, particularly the pastoral role, not a cultural perspective which at times is unhealthy. In an age of celebrity pastor, or CEO pastor this book is needed and in an era of the burnout pastor its needed even more. The heart of the authors is clear. The ideas are helpful and biblical, and I am always in need of a substantial encouragement to remember what the biblical calling of a pastor and leader within the local church is.
Why Trust The Bible? – Greg Gilbert
Every year it seems I hear another reason the Bible can’t be trusted. And every year another book comes out to address the supposed contradictions or errors. It seems to be a never-ending cycle. And this is the stark reality when a book is claimed to be more than an ordinary book. Christians claim that the Bible is supernatural – God is the primary author, and historical. Because of the nature of these claims we need reliable, thoughtful defences. I appreciate that Gilbert highlights that people are not required to make an irrational leap of faith without legitimate evidence. He suggests that the leap of faith Christians have taken should be due to the reliability of Jesus life found in the Bible. And he does a great job in a short book unlike many other apologetic books defending the Bible. This book is not academic making it an easy read. Its primary focus is to zero in on whether or not we can trust the historical reliability of the events of Jesus’ life, especially his resurrection. It looks at the translation process and the transmission process in the hope it’ll strengthen the Christians faith in the Bible and the God of the Bible and encourage unbelievers to reconsider their position.
No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What it is and Why it’s Harmful – Andrew David Naselli
If you don’t know what higher life theology is, don’t worry it’s not the end of the world. In my context, it is of vital importance as I live in a Christian bubble dominated by differing versions of it. So for me, this book was helpful in understanding the history of the theology, the attraction to it and how to lovingly confront those that may be unaware of the dangers it possesses. Naselli wrote his dissertation on higher life theology, surveying the history and theology of two-tiered progressive sanctification. He then revised his thesis into an academic work in a book called, ‘Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology which in turn became this miniature version of the book. I say this because to truly understand higher life theology you need to read the book. But in short, it’s the second blessing doctrine. You get saved at one point, but at another point, you need a second blessing. Yes, you’re saved, but now you need to surrender. It creates classes of Christians, those that are carnal and not serious, and those that are spiritual and very serious. Understanding the history was particularly helpful because I was able to learn the trajectory of the doctrine. Nothing ever lands where it leans. So to be able to recognise a starting point from an ending point not only helps to see where something may land, but I found it has given me grace and compassion towards those that are unable to see where the theology ultimately lands. It’s a good read if you battle against this theology as I do regularly.
Conscience: What it is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ – Andrew David Naselli & J.D. Crowley
This was a beneficial book. The first two-thirds were as I’d expected and probably didn’t teach anything I didn’t already know. The last third is where it was beneficial. Its focus was on how we handle our disagreements of conscience. How do we relate to one another in the church and other cultures? In matters of conscience, a lack of grace towards others seems to be the prominent disposition. Matters of opinion or in this case, conscience, take precedence over our love and grace towards one another. This book helped in how to create a framework which allows others to follow their convictions while disagreeing. Very helpful. The authors use numerous useful illustrations and tables that help create a framework for working through these issues.
The Pursuit of Holiness: Jerry Bridges
If you’ve never read any of Jerry Bridges work, you need to. He’s brilliant. Open to the first page, and three names are present writing praise for the book, J. I. Packer, John MacArthur and R.C Sproul. Nearly every book he writes sells over a million copies and for a good reason. They’re all great books. He’s a great writer and an even better thinker. Jerry takes ideas and simplifies them, makes them accessible. In this book, he passionately calls every Christian to holiness and dispels misconceptions, some of which I had before reading.
Spiritual Leadership – J. Oswald Sanders
Spiritual Leadership is an old classic. I’ve read it a few times, but it’s always good to go back to those essential and straightforward books. Sanders hits every angle of leadership and does so not just with scriptural references but with biblical stories and characters. His view of leadership is very biblical and practical. If you are a leader in any form, but especially a Christian leader you must read this book and keep it as regular read in your life.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – Jordan Peterson
Let’s just say this book is a deep dive. Took me a while to get through due to profound philosophical and psychological concepts he explores in each chapter. The chapter headings themselves are simple. You can almost read them, and they are your take away. But what Peterson does is explore each ‘rule’ from a historical development. So while the chapter title may be simple, the journey is seriously developed. Peterson’s goal is not to tell you just what to think but to show you through history why this particular way is the right way. So he regularly uses the scriptures to show how a particular principle was there in ancient writings. He spends a lot of time referring to those of the enlightenment period. People such as Kant and Nietzsche and the like. It’s extensive and exhilarating at the same time. It took me a couple of months to chew through as I often found myself going back over certain sections to wrap my head around the big ideas. It’s philosophical; it’s psychological and really hard hitting. Peterson doesn’t hold back. He has a definite agenda to make you a better person, or at least cause you to consider how you can do this for yourself, particularly by taking responsibility for yourself and your future. If you don’t know who Jordan Peterson is you’re probably not awake yet. He’s the leading voice of reason in the western world which doesn’t make him right, but it does mean he has something to say. This book is an excellent place to hear it.
Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News About Jesus More Believable – Sam Chan
I enjoyed the cultural thoughtfulness and scriptural faithfulness with this book. Often books within this topic focus solely on pragmatics, while cherry picking a few verses here and there to make it appear Christian. Chan naturally seeks effectiveness, but he also shows the emphasis of scripture throughout each chapter. He challenges those of us on the more conservative side to reconsider not only our approaches to evangelism but also our sometimes narrow understanding of the way evangelism happened in scripture. Chan is funny. He is , and he is another important voice in helping Christians consider the context we find ourselves in and how to approach our culture with the good news of Jesus. I think every Christian leader should read this book
Abba’s Child: Brennan Manning
Brennan Manning is often labelled a mystic. Usually this label is not made in an affirming way. Some of his theological convictions are questionable at times. But what is clear however is that Manning loved God passionately and believed the love was mutual. This book is all about deepening your understanding of God’s love for you. Often we think God’s love towards us is genuine and real and other times we don’t. Manning wants you to believe it at all times and to learn to live in God’s love, even on your worst day. I am currently reading this book with two young men in my church and am encouraged as I read a chapter every Monday night while laying next to my 9-year-old son. He with his Star Wars book in hand, and me with Abba’s Child and then we discuss what we learn from what we read. If there’s anything I want my boy to know its that his Heavenly Father loves him perfectly and thoroughly, even more than I do, and it’s his Spiritual Father that will truly satisfy his soul and lead him to true freedom and joy.
Would love to hear what you read and learnt.