I may not always know the answer you need but I will often give you a book to read.
I do read a lot and love to recommend books to others. Part of my giving to the church is to provide a table full of free books. So, why not share with you the books I found particularly helpful? Here are my top ten books for 2011. They are not always religious books but these ten were interesting. They are listed in no particular order. With each book I’ll enclose information provided by the publisher or Amazon.com followed by my comments: “Why I recommend this book.”
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. “Change is hard.” “People hate change.” It puzzled us — why do some huge changes, like marriage, come joyously, while some trivial changes, like submitting an expense report on time, meet fierce resistance? In our research, we studied people trying to make difficult changes: People fighting to lose weight and keep it off. Managers trying to overhaul an entrenched bureaucracy. Activists combatting seemingly intractable problems such as child malnutrition. They succeeded–and, to our surprise, we found striking similarities in the strategies they used. They seemed to share a similar game plan. We wanted, in Switch, to make that game plan available to everyone, in hopes that we could show people how to make the hard changes in life a little bit easier. –Chip and Dan Heath
Why I recommend this book. I confess — this is my favorite book of all the ones I read over the past 12 months. There are plenty of books stressing the need for change, in the church, in the marketplace, in our personal lives but very few books show you how to change. You will learn three basic concepts: Direct the rider. Motivate the elephant. Shape the path. Within these three concepts are ideas and real life examples that will help you – lead others toward change.
ReChurch: Healing Your Way Back to the People of God by Stephen Mansfield. “It seems that everyone who has ever been part of a church has suffered a “church hurt.” The pastor had an affair or the congregation fought over money or the leaders were disguising gossip as “prayer.” Stephen Mansfield has been there. Though he is now a New York Times best-selling author, he was a pastor for over 20 years, and he loved it—until he learned how much a church can hurt. Yet he also learned how to dig out of that hurt, break through the bitterness and anger, stop making excuses, and get back to where he ought to be with God and his people. If you’re ready to take the tough path to healing, Mansfield will walk you through it with brotherly love, showing you how you can be better than ever on the other side of this mess – if you’re willing to ReChurch.
Why I recommend this book. So many people have left the church because of hurts or perceived hurts. How do we heal? How do we come back? How can the church be a part of the healing process? Every church leader should read this book to learn how we hurt others. Everyone else should read this book to understand what the church should and could be.
Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus by Michael Slaughter. Something is not working. Despite the church’s place of prominence in American culture and the ubiquity of the church in every American town, misconceptions about the faith of Jesus Christ run rampant today. Christians are known more for exclusivity than for love, more for potlucks than for solving world hunger. It’s time for churches to get over the cruise-ship mentality of being a program provider, and reconnect with the true message and mission of Jesus: to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom to the oppressed. Pastor Mike Slaughter challenges church leaders to look at the future of their congregations and make tough but necessary choices.
- Will you send the church out into the world?
- Will you focus on building disciples or tallying decisions?
- Will you multiply your impact or expand your facilities?
- Will you step out in courage or comply with the status quo?
The answers to these and other questions determine how your church will focus its time, its energy, and its budget to work for real change in a hurting world.
Why I recommend this book. If you are looking for specifics on how the church can be in mission within the community and throughout the world; if you are looking for hands on examples that will challenge every one of us to move from the pew to the streets then this is a book for you.
They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations by Dan Kimball. Dan Kimball points out the convicting and humbling truth that the longer one is a Christian, the less likely one is to have significant friendships with those who are not Christian. Instead, most Christians today find their lives consumed with church-related activities – and those whose primary jobs are ministry-related are often the worst offenders. How can anyone know what the needs of the unchurched are unless they are involved in trusting relationships with them? The church in America has become nearly irrelevant to most 20- and 30-somethings. Yet those who follow Jesus rarely venture outside our cozy Christian comfort zones to learn why.
Why I recommend this book. If you or your church want to reach out to those who choose not to attend church then you must understand who they are, what they believe and why they are not interested in the church? The biggest strength of this book is the many voices of people who willingly share where they are coming from when they talk about Jesus and the church.
Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do by Gabriel Thompson. In a yearlong investigation, journalist Thompson lived among and worked side by side with undocumented workers in the hardest, lowest-paying jobs offered by the U.S. economy. He went west to pick lettuce, south to work in a chicken-processing factory, and back home to New York to work in a restaurant kitchen. Along the way, he shared the low wages, backbreaking work, ill treatment, and camaraderie of people who work in the shadows. In Arizona, he recalls desperately trying to make the five-day rule: if you can survive the first five days as a farmworker, you will be fine, meaning you will get used to swollen hands and all-over aches and pains for $8 an hour. In Alabama, he finds the local white supremacists have updated their targets to Hispanic workers and documented workers beginning to challenge exploitive labor practices. In New York, he chronicles workers with so few prospects that they work multiple jobs with no benefits.
Why I recommend this book. This is investigative journalism at its best. What is it like to work hard at a minimum wage job and live on those wages? Yet in the midst of these painful situations you also meet people who live out their faith through acts of kindness. Unfortunately you also see the very worst in people who claim to be leaders within their community. This is not a religious book but you will learn a lot about relating to our fellow human beings.
Next: Five more books for 2011.