favorite books of 2008

December 29, 2008

I know we have a few days of ’08 left, but I don’t think I’m going to be finishing any more books this year. So…it’s time for post I always look forward to — my favorite books of 2008. (Previous years: 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)

It’s a good exercise to review my reading list. I read on a broader variety of subjects this year, but my favorite books betray my primary passions. Since we are in the midst of shaping a new church community, the books that stick with me are those that stretch my imagination about church and mission. As usual, my main criteria is to ask myself which ones have stirred the most thought and helped shape my thinking. Which ones initiated thoughts that continue to swirl around in my mind? There were other books that did some of this, but these books, I think, did this to the greatest degree. I recommend any of them. Here they are, presented in the order in which I read them:

The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch
Blog entries: the forgotten ways, being life together
Hirsch has been an important voice for me since I first read The Shaping of Things to Come. I’m glad to see his reach is expanding, and I think he has much to say to the North American church.

Everything Must Change, by Brian McLaren
Blog entries: everything must change, ecological (a missiology for the west
Of all his books, this might be the best representation of the what it is that McLaren has to say to the church of today. It is too bad that McLaren is often avoided by some who think he is too liberal. Whether you agree with him or not, his ideas are challenging and thought-provoking.

The Kingdom of God is Like…, by Thomas Keating
Blog entries: pass the mustard, into the parables
A simple, but rich, book on the parables. Keating offers perspectives on a number of the parables that gave me new insights into faith and life within the kingdom of God.

Surprised by Hope, by NT Wright
Blog entries: this is the book i wanted to write, so much for harp lessons, wholes, not souls, surprised by hope
A true understanding of Christian faith requires an understanding of what God has done so far and what God is working toward. It is then that we can line ourselves up between the two. With this in mind, Surprised by Hope is one of the most helpful books I’ve read to offer a correct understanding of what God is working toward.

The Tangible Kingdom, by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
Blog entries: the call of community, the tangible kingdom
When people are trying to understand what we want to be about as a church, this is usually the first book I recommend to them. Too many people are still unfamiliar with this book. As I’ve described it to a number of friends, they have shown that the things that Frost and Hirsch write about work not only in Australia, but in North America as well.

Believing in the Future, by David Bosch
Blog entries: what do we have to become christians for?, believing in the future, ecological (a missiology for the west), countercultural (a missiology for the west), ecumenical (a missiology for the west), contextual (a missiology for the west), laity (a missiology for the west), a local worshiping community (a missiology for the west)
I think the number of blog posts listed above say enough about this short little book.

Signs of Emergence, by Kester Brewin
Blog entries: space for imagination, the nothing church, a trio of great reads
This is one of those books that can fool you. It is deceptively easy to read, but the ideas in it require a lot of reflection. Brewin gets back to the true idea of emergence — it’s not a label for trendy, culturally engaged churches, but a scientific principle about “bottom-up change.”

Jesus Wants to Save Christians, by Rob Bell and Don Golden
Blog entries: destiny or despair, a trio of great reads
I’ll just repeat what I originally said about this one: “I think it gives a helpful framework for reading the Bible as a whole. It should only be seen as a summary of the Biblical narrative, and not a comprehensive one at that. But, it provides an important understanding for how one should see the context of Jesus’ ministry in the first century and the ministry of the church in the 21st.”

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin
Blog entries: so simple, so accurate, simple leadership, tribes
This book caught me by surprise. Like I said about Brewin’s book above, it is easy to read, but lots of reflection should go with it. Besides being rich in ideas, it was also inspiring. I could only read bits at a time because I wanted to jump up and get to work.

The Moral Vision of the New Testament, by Richard Hays
Blog entries: my job description
In the interest of full disclosure, I actually have a couple of chapters left in this one, but it deserves a spot on the list. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this book recommended or mentioned, and now I know why. I am wary of seeing the Christian faith as a bundle of moral principles, but Hays offers an understanding of New Testament morality that is true to the text and a larger grasp of the Christian faith.

Bonus coverage: I had a hard time carving the list down to the standard ten, so here’s a few books that just barely missed the cut:

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