Books I’d Recommend - 2018

Each year I read dozens of books. I read for relaxation, to stay sharp, and for personal growth. Some of the things I read make my heart burn, strengthen my soul, and, I trust, sharpen me as a follower of Jesus. Here are ten books I read in 2018 that stirred me, and, I pray, shaped me to be a more faithful and fruitful disciple/disciple-maker. Perhaps the same might happen for you.

The Gospel Comes With a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield is one of the most compelling people I’ve read in terms of living practical, daily lives, in our culture and communities, on mission. The Gospel Comes With a House Key presents an “unvarnished,” realistic, but profoundly winsome perspective on hospitality. For me, this book lands squarely in the “top five” resources for equipping the leaders and members of our Missional Communities.

Eve In Exile: The Restoration of Femininity, Rebekah Merkle

I’m always on the lookout for clear and courageous thinking regarding Biblical manhood and womanhood. Rebekah Merkle is such a thinker and voice. At a time when notions of “gender” are deluged with distortion and foolishness, Merkle slices through the “fog.” Every disciple/disciple-maker (both women and men) needs this kind of honest and helpful framework. Sisters and brothers, please read this book.

Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us, Christine D. Pohl

This book was on my shelf for a couple years, until I saw that Rosaria Butterfield had referenced it in The Gospel Comes With a House Key. I then determined to dust it off and read it. I’m so glad I did. This book addresses rhythms, habits of grace, daily disciplines that build and nurture spiritual community. Pohl’s observations regarding “promises made” and “promises kept” as foundational and necessary for living life together on mission, were worth the time it took to read this book all by themselves. There are powerful gospel connections between our God as a promise-making, promise-keeping God, and our promise-making, promise-keeping covenants to one another as members of our local church, and members of a missional community. This book will serve and strengthen the disciple-making “delivery system” of Emmaus Road Church 

The Lost Discipline of Conversation, Joanne J. Jung 

Here is an excellent resource for thinking more broadly and practically about what happens in your “discipleship huddle.” It also addresses one of our fundamental convictions and habits when it comes to the rhythm of “narrate” in our missional communities. Jung goes to the Puritans and their practice of “conferencing” – that is, intentional, directed spiritual conversation in the service of helping one another grow up into Christ. One of my most challenging deficiencies when it comes to engaging others is asking thoughtful, careful, and heart-opening questions. With the English Puritans as a “go to” source, I believe we will find this book a very useful conversation starter –whether the context is family worship/devotions, date night or devotions with your spouse, or going deeper with the others in your discipleship huddle. Excellent book.

The Uninvited Companion, Scott Shaum 

For 63 years, I have been a student in God’s “school” of “life’s adversities.” I call it the “redemptive paradigm” of leadership development. In The Uninvited Companion, I have discovered a fellow student and friend. Scott speaks a language I understand. I met Scott and read his book while Ryan and I were preaching our way through Genesis 37-50. According to Ephesians 2:10, every one of God’s people are being shaped through the Lord’s sovereign transformational process. He wastes nothing. The crucible of pain and suffering in the lives of the saints is an essential component to preparing us for “good works” God has planned and purposed, in advance, for us to walk in. This book engenders hope and healing. 

A Justice Primer, Douglas Wilson and Randy Booth 

In a cultural context where our first response to the things we see and hear is more often “outrage” than seeking to be “informed”, Wilson and Booth’s A Justice Primer is a much needed voice of sound Biblical clarity. Confusion abounds when it comes to appropriate perspective on “fake news”, or jumping to conclusions, or right reactions to “charges” against others, or against our selves. But our God is just. And our just God calls his people to do justice and to love mercy. There may be no more significant and relevant book I read this year. 

Formed For the Glory of God, Kyle Strobel 

I loved this book. I could hardly put it down. I was blown away by Kyle Strobel’s insight into the spiritual theology of Jonathan Edwards. When I say “spiritual theology”, I mean Edward’s theological perspective on personal spiritual growth in the life of a believer. This book takes us into the “habits of grace” practiced by one of the most influential thinkers, theologians, pastor’s of the 18th century. Strobel, like Edwards his mentor, is a genius. He’s an excellent writer. And what a wonderful window he opens into Edward’s personal worship and life of spiritual devotion. I’m reading and meditating and contemplating my Bible in ways I had not before.

Charity And It’s Fruits, Jonathan Edwards, edited by Kyle Stobel 

After reading Strobel’s book on Jonathan Edwards’ spiritual practices, I resolved to read, again, Edwards’ Charity and Its Fruits. With fresh perspective on how Edwards’ understanding of 1 Corinthians 13 shaped his life of spiritual devotion, as well as his practice of shepherding the members of his church, I was eager for a new look at this hugely influential series of sermons. I was not disappointed. With Kyle Strobel as a skillful guide (he offers interpretation and commentary in the side margins), I found these 15 sermons to be deeply satisfying water for my own soul. Reading Jonathan Edwards can be tough sledding. But for those willing to go slow and think, the rewards here are invaluable for your joy in the faith. For those who want to try Jonathan Edwards, start with Charity and It’s Fruits, and read this edition.