The Year without a Purchase – As a missionary on a tight budget every year, this book caught my attention. The Year without a Purchase is the story of one family’s quest to stop shopping and start connecting. Scott Dannemiller and his wife, Gabby, are former missionaries who served in Guatemala. Ten years removed from their vow of simple living, they found themselves on a never-ending treadmill of consumption where each purchase created a desire for more and never led to true satisfaction. The difference between needs and wants had grown very fuzzy, and making that distinction clear again would require drastic action: no nonessential purchases for a whole year. No clothes, no books, no new toys for the kids. If they couldn’t eat it or use it up within a year (toilet paper and shampoo, for example), they wouldn’t buy it.
Filled with humorous wit, curious statistics, and poignant conclusions, the book examines modern America’s spending habits and chronicles the highs and lows of dropping out of our consumer culture. As the family bypasses the checkout line to wrestle with the challenges of gift giving, child rearing, and keeping up with the Joneses, they discover important truths about human nature and the secret to finding true joy. The Year without a Purchase offers valuable food for thought for anyone who has ever wanted to reduce stress by shopping less and living more.
Gaining by Losing – People are leaving the church J.D. Greear pastors. Big givers. Key volunteers. Some of his best leaders and friends. And that’s exactly how he wants it to be. When Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission, he revealed that the key for reaching the world with the gospel is found in sending, not gathering. Though many churches focus time and energy on attracting people and counting numbers, the real mission of the church isn’t how many people you can gather. It’s about training up disciples and then sending them out. The true measure of success for a church should be its sending capacity, not its seating capacity. But there is a cost to this. To see ministry multiply, we must release the seeds God has placed in our hands. And to do that, we must ask ourselves whether we are concerned more with building our kingdom or God’s. In Gaining By Losing, J.D. Greear unpacks ten plumb lines that we can use to reorient our church’s priorities around God’s mission to reach a lost world. The good news is that we don’t need to choose between gathering or sending. Effective churches can, and must, do both. As an elder in a church that is wrestling with these issues, this is on the top of my “must read” list.
Openness Unhindered – Rosario Butterfield’s debut book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, was one of the most important books written in the last decade. It is she described how she, as a leftist professor in a committed lesbian relationship became a confessional Christian. This new book is a follow up designed to answer many of the questions that people pose when she speaks at universities and churches, questions not only about her unlikely conversion to Christ but about personal struggles that the questioners only dare to ask someone else who has traveled a long and painful journey. Dr. Butterfield not only goes to great lengths to clarify some of today’s key controversies, she also traces their history and defines the terms that have become second nature today—even going back to God’s original design for marriage and sexuality as found in the Bible. She cuts to the heart of the problems and points the way to the solution, which includes a challenge to the church to be all that God intended it to be, and for each person to find the true freedom that is found in Christ.
Songs of Jesus – Tim Keller has done it again. Responding to what his readers have been asking for, he has written year-long daily devotional that will likely become the best-selling resource in its category. The Songs of Jesus by Keller offers inspiration every day for an entire year based on the Book of Psalms. Each day readers will encounter a fresh, inspiring lesson from one of the most beloved books in the Bible. Few authors have the loyal audience that Tim Keller has. Penguin has sold more than two million copies of his books. His publisher suggests that many fans have been waiting for him to write a daily devotional in the tradition of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. This is particularly interesting in light of the strident critique that his wife Kathy has written about Jesus Calling. I for one can’t wait to use this resource for 2016.
The Biggest Story – In The Biggest Story, Kevin DeYoung—best-selling author and father of six—leads kids and parents alike on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ’s death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth. With powerful illustrations by award-winning artist Don Clark, this imaginative retelling of the Bible’s core message—how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden—will draw children into the biblical story, teaching them that God’s promises are even bigger and better than we think. Having looked at this book, the artwork is stunning even though it may be a little avant-garde for some families and children. I am excited to see how Kevin helps kids see how all those classic stories of the Bible connect to Scripture’s overarching message about God’s glorious plan to redeem his rebellious people.
The Soul of Shame – One of my current favorite authors is Dr. Brene Brown. Her TED talks on vulnerability and shame are among the most watched of all the TED talk videos on YouTube. I am excited to read this new book by a Christian author on the same topic and am grateful to my book loving friend Byron Borger for the recommendation. In this book, Psychiatrist Curt Thompson unpacks the soul of shame, revealing its ubiquitous nature and neurobiological roots. He also provides the theological and practical tools necessary to dismantle shame, based on years of researching its damaging effects and counseling people to overcome those wounds. He says that, “We’re all infected with a spiritual disease. Its name is shame. Whether we realize it or not, shame affects every aspect of our personal lives and vocational endeavors. It seeks to destroy our identity in Christ, replacing it with a damaged version of ourselves that results in unhealed pain and brokenness. But God is telling a different story for your life.”
7 Women – In his eagerly anticipated follow-up to the enormously successful Seven Men, New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas gives us seven captivating portraits of some of history’s greatest women, each of whom changed the course of history by following God’s call upon their lives—as women. Each of the world-changing figures who stride across these pages—Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks—is an exemplary model of true womanhood. Metaxas is one of the best biographers of our time and wrote one of my favorite biographies of the last decade about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I am particularly excited to read this book to see what he has to say about Corrie ten Boom whose books are still published by CLC and is one of my spiritual heroes.
Onward – I love the concept for this book and the balanced approach that Russell Moore takes to an incredibly important topic. In his description of the book he says, “As the culture changes all around us, it is no longer possible to pretend that we are a Moral Majority. That may be bad news for America, but it can be good news for the church. What’s needed now, in shifting times, is neither a doubling-down on the status quo nor a pullback into isolation. Instead, we need a church that speaks to social and political issues with a bigger vision in mind: that of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.” He summarizes these thoughts with the intriguing phrase “Keep Christianity Strange”. In conclusion, he says “The signs of the times tell us we are in for days our parents and grandparents never knew. But that’s no call for panic or surrender or outrage. Jesus is alive. Let’s act like it. Let’s follow him, onward to the future.”
H3 Leadership – In his new book H3 LEADERSHIP: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle., Brad Lomenick shares his hard-earned insights from more than two decades of work alongside thought-leaders such as Jim Collins and Malcom Gladwell, Fortune 500 CEOs and start-up entrepreneurs. He categorizes 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?). These powerful words describe the leader who is willing to work hard, get it done, and make sure it’s not about him or her; the leader who knows that influence is about developing the right habits for success. Given his effective leadership of the Catalyst Conferences, I am looking forward to seeing how this book may impact my own approach to leadership going forward.