Pastor Jim’s Top 10 Books 2016
by Pastor Jim Essian
Each year I keep track of all the books I’ve read; sort of an annual personal curation—all right, it’s nerdy, I know. But for all my Kindle reading nerd-dom, I was able to find my ten favorites and share them with you so that perhaps I can save you the time and money of reading bad books. This list (in no particular order) includes biographies, history, Christian, and (what I like to call) dessert books.
1776 by David McCullough
If David McCullough had been British he would be Sir David McCullough. If you like biographies, read this. If you like history, read this. McCullough portraits a cinematic-like story of the American Revolution that was impossible to put down.
Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith
James Smith has made “liturgy” an everyday word. “Liturgies aim our love to different ends precisely by training our hearts through our bodies.” Liturgies are practices, habits, rituals, “they are material, embodied routines that we do over and over again; they are usually aimed at a specific end, or goal; and their repetition and practice has the effect of making them more and more automatic such that they become part of the very fiber of our character, wired into our second nature.”
Smith takes you to the mall, to church, and to school, and invites you to revisit the way you think about participating in those contexts, and challenges you to consider how you interact in every context.
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith
If you read one book by James Smith, read this one. This is probably his most popular level book that revisits some of the same ideas he posited in previous works (including the above, Desiring the Kingdom).
“Do you ever experience a gap between what you know and what you do?” It’s because you are not what you know or believe, instead, “you are what you love. And you worship what you love. And you might not love what you think.”
John Knox: Fearless Faith by Steven J. Lawson
This isn’t a very big book, but John Knox was a huge figure in the Reformation in Scotland. If you’ve never heard of him, that’s ok. You’ll soon know him, and want to tell his story. For all that he accomplished, and the influence God granted him, it was his prayer life that stood out to me:
“Knox was much for God because he was much with Him. He stood tall in the pulpit because he had kneeled low in prayer. The depth of his prayers determined the breadth of his preaching. . .So powerful was Knox’s prayer life that Charles H. Spurgeon once remarked, ‘When John Knox went upstairs to plead (with God) for Scotland, it was the greatest event in Scottish history.’ Mary, Queen of Scots acknowledged the same: ‘I am more afraid of [Knox’s] prayers than an army of ten thousand men.’”
A History of Fort Worth in Black & White: 165 Years of African-American Life by Richard F. Selcer
“A community must own its past before it can lay claim to its future.” And this extensive treatment of race relations in Fort Worth gives us a great tool to do just that.
It taught me a lot about the Black Church: “demonstrating yet again how important the black church was, not just in religious matters but in all community activities.”
It taught me a lot about our city: “Fort Worth remained peaceful but hardly progressive.”
If you care about racial issues (and you should), and if you care about the church in Fort Worth, this is a must read.
Renovate: Changing Who You Are by Loving Where You Are by Léonce B. Crump
“You cannot have a plan for a people you do not know.” Leonce shares the story of his church in Atlanta and the good discipline and maturation the Spirit did through it all. He challenges, rebukes, exhorts, and along the way you will get a vision for your city, your neighborhood, and a desire to see God renovate for his glory.
Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience by Mark Sayers
I love Mark Sayers writing; and I love what Mark Sayers writes about.
This is a cultural exegesis of our day and the church in our day. “What we are experiencing is not the eradication of God from the Western mind, but rather the enthroning of the self as the greatest authority.”
As he unfolds the layers of our post-modernistic, individualistic, autonomous Western world, he invites the church to consider what She needs to do and say in light of the world we find ourselves in: “A church that is no longer disappearing is the one that leads people into realizing that they are not God.”
The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick M. Lencioni
Lencioni’s fables put leadership principles into actual case studies, and The Ideal Team Player does this so well. An ideal team player is “humble, hungry, and [people] smart.”
So, ”leaders who can identify, hire, and cultivate employees who are humble, hungry, and smart will have a serious advantage over those who cannot.” Simple. Helpful. An easy to complicate or forget. Read this if you are on a team or lead teams.
The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough
It’s David Mccullough, read it.
This story has great engineering, a robust history of New York in the late 1800s, and lots of drama. Very interesting.
The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe
This may have been the book I was most captured by this year. What’s the Achilles heel of evolution? Speech.
In a fascinating and sarcastic way, Wolfe speaks a huge hole into Darwinian theory by taking you into the jungles of Brazil, and introduces you to a science of something you probably haven’t thought much about—how and why humans have speech.