I was recently asked about my biggest influences in ministry and I began to think about all the books I’ve read while at Fuller. Fuller is unique in their attempt to create a diversity of ethnicity and gender by choosing texts which represent many voices in academia. I am incredibly grateful for this and have often said that Fuller’s diversity was an education in and of itself. All of the texts I read have influenced me over the last four years but some stuck with me, challenged me, and changed my views with long term impact. Many of the books are ones I would not have read on my own which stretched me to think outside of the norm. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the views inside of them but they each had something unique and powerful to bring to the table. If you have been around me for any part of my time back to school, it is likely you heard me talk about and quote one of the following authors. Here are the top books that I recommend that every Christian should read…in no particular order:
#1 The Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter. Richter pulls together an amazing overview of the Old Testament by giving powerful insights into the cultural contexts. There is consistency and beautiful poetry to the overarching narrative in the Bible. Richter brings this to life without losing theological depth. This book helped me make sense of the O.T. from the perspective of convenient relationships. This concept plays itself out beyond what I thought was possible even into the new creation account in Revelations. This book caused me to spontaneously praise God while reading it for God’s incredibly brilliant authorship as He writes the gospel story upon the medium of human history.
#2 The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins. Thinking about the future of the church tends to be a hobby of mine and Jenkins gives a well-rounded and well-researched look into the next few decades. While the direction of Christendom may seem bleak in the west, it is giving way to bigger and (I would say) better result for the global state of Christianity. As a byproduct, this book confronts the Western leaders who have led much of the global Christian efforts in the last few hundred years to consider what they need to learn from the global majorities success.
#3 Churches, Cultures, and Leadership by Branson and Martinez. This text cultivated some of the most difficult questions in my mind during my time in seminary. There is so much to be learned about leadership from the plurality of cross-cultural perspectives! This book is stacked with applicable leadership development suggestions and ideas but it also has a cultural twist to it. While I am still trying to make my way through all of the cultural baggage I’ve picked up along the way, I have recognized my own need to combat tendencies towards ethnocentrism in church leadership (which often lives underneath the surface). This is a must read for any church leader, elder, pastor who is alive and breathing in the 21st century. The fallout from our inability to see past our own cultural bias’ will hit like a tidal wave in the next few decades and we need to be able to recognize it and be a part of the solution so as not to participate in the problem.
#4 Center Church by Tim Keller. Keller’s efforts are best understood as bringing the reader up to speed on the different veins of Christianity over the last few decades with all of it’s twists and turns. His intention is to create a “center” target for church leadership to aim at while navigating the many trends, fads, and buzz words thrown around. It was a little daunting at parts because it feels like a textbook (because it is) but serves as a great overview of trends and ministry perspectives to gain a comprehensive understanding of the modern state of ministry. It works well to fill in the gaps for those who don’t have time to keep up with everything that’s happened in the last major movements of ecclesiology.
#5 Reconciling all Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace, and Healing by Katongole. Zeroing in on issues of justice in our culture today, Katongole shares a wonderful perspective on bring peace and healing to those who have been caught up in systemic oppression, poverty, and marginalization. This text does a great job at untangling incredibly complicated situations which are pertinent to modern ministry issues. It’s hard not to see the influence of Walter Brueggemann in his writings (which I am not complaining about). The end goal is to land on a theological outworking of Shalom as opposed to temporary fixes. His insights were invaluable for someone like me who wants to get at root issues but needs the wisdom and perspectives of those closer to the situations than I am.
All books are available of Amazon and regular book outlets. There were many more books that I couldn’t mention in this post. Maybe I’ll have to make another post with the next 5…