Each year, the ministers come up with a list of recently published (or recently discovered) books that we think we enrich the Christian walk of our congregation. We try to keep the selection diverse, both in terms of topic and authorship. We hope you will find many, if not all, of these books enjoyable to read and challenging and encouraging for your faith. Here is our list for 2016-17:
1. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith
This book explores many of Smith’s revolutionary ideas about worship and faith formation in more easily understandable prose than his previous, more academic books. Smith covers a broad range of topics including how humans respond to ritual and liturgy, how secular institutions also construct liturgies that form us, how Christian worship can tap into the power of history and liturgy, how we can continue the spiritual formation in our homes, and how it can translate into the teaching of our children and our vocational lives. It packs a lot into a small book. An important read!
2. Real Good Church: How Our Church Came Back From the Dead and Yours Can, Too by Rev. Molly Phinny Baskette
Real Good Church is an entertaining and practical read about how the pastor of a progressive congregation outside of Boston, MA led her congregation from stagnation to vibrancy despite the many challenges of discipling faithful Christians in the 21st century church. It has lots of great ideas that will inspire you as lay leaders and insights that will help you better understand Church in 2016.
3. Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and How It’s Killing Us by Shane Claiborne
Across the country, Christian congregations are rethinking the ethical implications of the death penalty. Shane Claiborne’s new book brings a human face, theological rigor, and Claiborne’s engaging, conversational tone to the discussion. The stories are moving, the theological and biblical arguments are convincing, and the book will challenge you to think critically about the contradiction of condoning execution while following an executed Christ.
4. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns
The Bible is a crazy book. Sometimes it is uplifting, sometimes challenging, sometimes disturbing, sometimes downright strange. This book argues that because many Christians have been taught to “defend the Bible,” we have begun largely unable to read it effectively. Enns has a way of making a difficult topic—helping the church better interpret Scripture—accessible and very fun to read. If you’re struggling with how to read and interpret the Bible as a thinking, questioning, doubting Christian, this book is a must read.
5. America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, addresses our country’s intractable problem with racism and white privilege in his new book. Wallis confronts the problem of racism and white supremacy in the church head on, and gives Christians a way to “die to whiteness,” which as he explains, is not just a skin color but an ideology that confers advantages and privileges on certain ethnicities and implies that others are inherently less-than. This book is important for all Christians to read, but especially for those who are uncomfortable talking about race or who haven’t yet understand racism as the massive structural (and sinful) problem that it is.
6. For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
Jen Hatmaker writes in a relatable and funny style, and For the Love addresses a pressure that many (if not all) feel in our society today: the need to fulfill impossible standards and juggle the many responsibilities of our lives perfectly. The problem with this is that it doesn’t allow for grace. As Christians, it is vital for the development of true and deep relationships that we be characterized not by perfection but by the way we exude the grace of God. Although this book is specifically addressed to women, the issues Hatmaker addresses cross gender lines and would benefit all who are interested in reading.
7. The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right by Lisa Sharon Harper
We all have associations when we hear the word “gospel.” For some of us, it is a musical genre. For some, it conjures up pictures of a revival with a hellfire and brimstone preacher raising his voice and “saving souls.” Most of us have been taught a simple version of the gospel, which emphasizes that Jesus came and died on the cross so that we could go to heaven. But what about the suffering we look around and see here and now? Is there any good news for this world or is it all about the afterlife? And if it’s all about the afterlife, is that really good news that people can experience now? These are the questions Lisa Sharon Harper addresses in this book that will deepen your view of what the gospel is and reinvigorate your zeal for taking God’s very good news to the world.
8. Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Bolz-Weber’s typical irreverence shines in this, her latest book that explores how to embrace the misfit family of God. Nadia’s stories are moving at times and hilarious at others, but always meaningful. She opens windows into what the kingdom can be when welcomes people as they are. If you are offended by coarse language you may want to steer clear of this book, but if you are drawn to a new kind of church that meets people where they are and widens the fold of God to include those typically left on the outside, this book is for you.
9. Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How To Reverse It) by Robert Lupton
This exposé by veteran urban minister and activist Robert Lupton pulls back the curtain on the good intentions of the church and shows how traditional forms of charity and mission sometimes hurt more than they help. This book was a game changer and is helping spawn a different approach to community outreach across the country and the world. The ideas in it have been very influential for our theological of mission and community partnership. Important read!
Rev. Stacks, Rev. Efird, and Rev. Hardison