This is going to be a great spring for Christian book lovers. Here are seven books that will challenge your thinking, deepen your understanding and inspire your soul.
Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch
Andy Crouch is one of my favorite Christian authors and an incredibly important thought leader for this generation. His previous two books, Culture Making and Playing God, were revolutionary for me. In this new book he says that “Flourishing people are strong and weak.” Two common temptations lure us away from abundant living―withdrawing into safety or grasping for power. True flourishing, says Crouch, travels down an unexpected path―being both strong and weak. We see this unlikely mixture in the best leaders―people who use their authority for the benefit of others, while also showing extraordinary willingness to face and embrace suffering. We see it in Jesus, who wielded tremendous power yet also exposed himself to hunger, ridicule, torture and death. Rather than being opposites, strength and weakness are actually meant to be combined in every human life and community. As a leader who strives to serve others well, this may be the most important book I read this year and I have been looking forward to digging into it ever since I heard about it.
Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman
Lyons and Kinnaman are two of the most important younger evangelical voices in the world today. Their previous collaboration, unChristian, was one of the most influential books of the last decade in Christian circles and deeply influenced my own thinking. Now they turn their data-driven insights toward the thorny question of how Christians talk with people they know and love about the most toxic issues of our day. They help today’s disciples understand what they believe and why, and how to keep believing it without being judgmental and defensive. Readers will discover the most significant trends that offer both obstacles and opportunities to God’s people, and how not only to challenge culture but to create and renew it for the common good. Perhaps most importantly, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons invite fellow Christians to understand the heart behind opposing views and show them how to be loving, life-giving friends despite profound differences. This will be the go-to book for young adult and older believers who don’t want to hide from culture but to engage and restore it.
Create vs. Copy: Embrace Change. Ignite Creativity. Break Through with Imagination by Ken Wytsma
I have always been fascinated by innovation. At a time when change occurs at a speed that can take our breath away, we are often tempted to embrace the tried and true rather than consider new options. The reality is that today’s leaders simply can’t succeed without putting creativity in their toolbox. This short, punchy book explores various aspects of creativity and imagination and leads us toward a healthy, confident, more innovative life mindset. It celebrates the good news of our God-given capacity to create and helps us harness it to take charge of our lives, navigate changing times, and ultimately, flourish and succeed. Having traveled to dozens of countries, founded the leading international conference on justice and theology, and collaborated with scores of nonprofits, Wytsma is uniquely fit to help us be culture-shapers in a world of global change. He blends theology, history, and cultural observation to show us what being God’s creative image-bearers might look like today.
Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy
I usually hate books like this that can seem formulaic and simplistic. Having just read nearly half the book, I was pleasantly surprised and greatly challenged. While some of this content can be found in other books like Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Hyatt and Harkavy present their ideas in a fresh and compelling way for this generation. I have to confess that with so many distractions around me, I can tend to drift through my day if I am not careful and I am excited about the possibility of living more purposefully. In this book New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt and executive coach Daniel Harkavy show us how to do it: to design a life with the end in mind, determining in advance the outcomes we desire and path to get there. Watching Mike Hyatt leave the top job at Thomas Nelson to craft a life of joy and inspiration to so many others made this an easy choice to add to my list.
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart
Drew Hart is the son of my dear friend and ministry partner Tony Hart. Tony and I will be travelling to Africa together in March and I am sure we will be discussing this book. Drew is also a graduate my alma mater, Messiah College and is an influential blogger, writer and speaker. At a time when the conversation about race in America and racism in the church is growing louder and louder, this book should be an interesting and important resource for Christian leaders. In this provocative book, theologian and blogger Drew Hart places police brutality, mass incarceration, anti-black stereotypes, poverty, and everyday acts of racism within the larger framework of white supremacy. Leading readers toward Jesus, Hart offers concrete practices for churches that seek solidarity with the oppressed and are committed to racial justice. He asks the question, “What if all Christians listened to the stories of those on the racialized margins? How might the church be changed by the trouble we’ve seen?”
Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious by David Dark
So I have not read anything by David Dark before, but this book comes highly recommended by my trusted friend Byron Borger whose “Booknotes Blog” is a must read resource for me. At a time when the concept of “spiritual but not religious” has become a part of the pop culture lexicon, this books seems very necessary. Dark writes: “If what we believe is what we see is what we do is who we are, there’s no getting away from religion.” Both incisive and entertaining, Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious combines Dark’s keen powers of cultural observation with candor and wit. With equal parts memoir and analysis, Dark persuasively argues that the fact of religion is the fact of relationship. Looking hard at our weird religious background (Dark maintains we all have one) can bring the actual content of our everyday existence―the good, the bad and the glaringly inconsistent―to fuller consciousness. By doing so, we can more practically envision an undivided life and reclaim the idea of being “religious.” I am looking forward to reading a book that does not mock the idea of being religious and gives us better ways of framing our conversation about this important topic
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K A Smith
I am a passionate person and know that the content of this book is going to impact me in significant ways. Already a fan of his earlier book, Desiring the Kingdom, I am looking forward to this fresh, bottom-up re-articulation that creatively uses film, literature, and music illustrations to engage readers and includes new material on marriage, family, youth ministry, and faith and work. In this book, award-winning author James K. A. Smith shows that who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made. He explains that worship is the “imagination station” that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are directed toward God and his kingdom. This is why the church and worshiping in a local community of believers should be the hub and heart of Christian formation and discipleship.