I’ve started compiling a list of books that I’ve read and have found helpful for any number of reasons. I’ve arranged them by subject. Some of the books could fit under multiple subjects (and some books are listed under multiple subjects). In most cases, though, I’ve listed the book under the area in which I personally found the book helpful.
Ecclesiology/Worship/Church Planting/Being the Church
DeYmaz, Mark. Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandaates, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation. I recommend this book mainly for the stories DeYmaz shares throughout the book about planting Mosaic, the multi-ethnic church he pastors. The theology and biblical teaching of this book is pretty simplistic and not well nuanced, but the story of Mosaic is inspiring and helpful for anyone trying to plant a multiethnic ministry.
Metzger, Paul Louis. Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. One of the best books I’ve read. This book could probably be listed under any of the headings in this bibliography. Metzger explains how the evangelical church’s consumer-driven method of doing ministry and worship has contributed to the racial divisions still present across most evangelical traditions. The solution he offers: refocusing mission and ministry away from perceived and contrived “needs” of particular demographics and back toward Word and Sacrament. This is a fantastic book for recent seminary graduates to read, as it will help weave together things learned in multiple courses.
Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in Pluralist Society. A classic, and a great book to think through what it means to be a witnessing Christian in the contemporary west.
Richardson, Rick. Re-imagining Evangelism: Inviting Friends on a Spiritual Journey. This is a great, straight-forward explanation of good evangelism. If you’re looking for resources to teach evangelism in your church, this is a great book to start with.
Taylor, John V. The Go-Between God: The Holy Spirit and the Christian Mission. This is definitely more a work of theology than a book on “how to do evangelism/mission.” That said, I think this will give any minister a fresh perspective on the work of the Holy Spirit in mission. It’s a bit of a heavy read, but also very beautifully written.
Integration of Faith and Work/Life
Poplin, Mary. Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service. Most of us have at least a token appreciation for Mother Teresa. This book took me from token appreciation to deep admiration for her life and work. Poplin, an education professor at Claremont and midlife convert to Christianity, reflects on the sabbatical she spent with Mother in Calcutta, and on how the experience transformed her approach to working in academia. Poplin now sees the university as her “Calcutta,” and challenges the reader to find theirs.
Rath, Tom. Strengthsfinder 2.0. Not exactly a book that you would want to read cover to cover. Taking the online test (which comes free with purchasing the book new) and reading about your five primary strengths was something I found very helpful, though, in thinking through how I focus my energies in ministry.
Benner, David G. Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction. I read this book with my friend and co-laborer in ministry Chris. I found it helpful in thinking through both the purpose of Christian friendship and also the work of being a pastor. This is a great book for two friends to read together, or for a married couple to read together, or for an individual in ministry of any capacity.
Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Poetry and Prose. Hopkins was a Jesuit Priest and Romantic-era poet. His two vocations combine to create some of the most beautiful Christian reflections I’ve read. I especially recommend his poem “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection.”
Reardon, Patrick Henry. Christ in the Psalms. This is a great book if you’re wanting to go deeper into praying the Psalms. The book is an at-times strange blend of commentary and spiritual reflection. Reardon provides a two-page reflection for each Psalm, focusing on the use of the Psalm in the Church’s history (often citing when the Psalm is used in Eastern and Western Liturgy and in particular monastic orders), and ultimately seeks to provide a Christological interpretation of each Psalm. As Reardon says in his introduction, Christians are to seek to pray the Psalms with the mind of Christ, and this book is a great introduction to method of Psalm-praying.
Wilson, Ken. Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His Religion Back. This is a good book for anyone who is ‘de-churched’ – folks who have been burned by the church or grown frustrated with their experience of church. Mature Christians who have been content with the church may find this book frustrating, but it’s still a helpful book for thinking through why so many have negative experiences of church. If your an “ex-Christian” looking to get back into following Jesus, this is a good place to start.
Moltmann, Jurgen. Theology of Hope. This was one of the most transformative books I read while in seminary. Moltmann makes the case for doing Christian theology with eschatology at the center. The Christian is to approach life always with the hope of the coming Kingdom in front of them. This book is somewhat dense, but very much worth it.
Wright, NT: Surprised by Hope – Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. This book could just as easily be placed under Ecclesiology or Mission. This book challenges the Church to return to the classic understanding of Christian resurrection – both Christ’s and ours. Theologically, Wright says nothing new theologically; he simply re-articulates the theology of the early church. What is new and exciting in this book is Wright’s critique of the 21st century church and the implications of the Christ’s resurrection for the contemporary church. It’s a bit long, about 300 pages, but very readable. This is a book that every Christian should read, especially those in leadership positions in churches.