Last time: I recommended five books, I found particularly helpful. Here are five more. They are not all religious books but I found them particularly interesting and unique. With each book I’ll enclose information provided by the publisher followed by my comments: “Why I recommend this book.”
Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith by Diana Butler Bass. Most pundits will tell you that the mainline churches—Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and Disciples of Christ—are in decline: it is now commonplace to assume that liberal churches are doomed and only evangelical churches are growing. Think again, says Butler Bass in this challenging and hopeful book, which summarizes the findings of a three-year study funded by the Lilly Endowment. Yes, many mainline churches are struggling, but not because liberal Christianity is a contradiction in terms. Rather, the old neighborhood Protestant church has fallen on hard times because the old neighborhood has been replaced by a strip mall. And many mainline churches are thriving. Butler Bass showcases 10 of them, including Redeemer UCC in New Haven, Conn., and Saint Mark (Lutheran) in Yorktown, Va. She then examines 10 practices, from hospitality to worship to vigorous theological discussion, and posits that these practices are the heartbeat of vital mainline churches.
Why I recommend this book. There are a lot of books pointing out what we do wrong as churches but this one highlights real congregations doing church right. You may not always agree but hopefully you will be inspired and encouraged. Chapter 15 shares the story of Bernard, a life transformed by a local church. The way this church treated him and his family is a lesson for us all.
Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business by Amber Mac. Amber Mac wants to be your friend. She may be a tech-savvy webpreneur, the popular host of TV shows and video podcasts, and an in-demand consultant and speaker, but if you ask Amber Mac about her strategy for success, she’ll tell you she’s just trying to be a good friend. When it comes to social media-whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or the latest video blog-the tools evolve quickly, the rules change rapidly, and the technology feels more and more complex. But making social media work for your company doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In this compact yet thorough guide, Mac shows you how to effectively harness the online world to grow your business. The secret: think of your audience as your friends and then treat them that way. The Power Friending approach is all about developing real relationships based on mutual respect and support. While you may never meet some of your online friends face-to-face, they still expect you to follow the established norms of friendship: be authentic, reach out, listen. And don’t lie to your friends.
Why I recommend this book. Facebook alone has over 500 Million followers. The ruler of Tunisia was recently overthrown by crowds relying on Twitter to communicate to each other. The Social Media is here to stay. What does that mean for those of us in the church? Just like the telephone, television and the internet; Social Media is a powerful communications tool. How you use that tool will impact ministry now and far into the future.
Linking Arms, Linking Lives: How Urban-Suburban Partnerships Can Transform Communities by Ronald J. Sider, John M. Perkins, Wayne L. Gordon and F. Albert Tizon. Among the various lines drawn between people in the church–male and female, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat–there is the line between the urban and the suburban. The stereotypes of the edgy, socially active, multicultural urban Christian and the middle-class, comfortable, upwardly mobile suburban Christian mix fact and fiction. Linking Arms, Linking Lives looks beyond stereotypes and makes a compelling case for partnership that crosses urban and suburban for effective ministry among the poor. Drawing from a growing network of development practitioners, pastors, and theologians, this book focuses on the experiences of partnership between urban and suburban entities to provide both theological foundations and practical guidelines for those who desire to partner effectively. All who want to find viable ways to help the poor will welcome this thoughtful and hope-filled book.
Why I recommend this book. For several years, I have worked to link churches, especially those churches in the suburbs which those churches downtown who play such a vital role in ministry to the poor. Linking Arms, Linking Lives gives real life examples of how to make these partnerships work.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The brothers Heath—Chip a professor at Stanford’s business school, Dan a teacher and textbook publisher—offer an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication. Drawing extensively on psychosocial studies on memory, emotion and motivation, their study is couched in terms of “stickiness”—that is, the art of making ideas unforgettable. They start by relating the gruesome urban legend about a man who succumbs to a barroom flirtation only to wake up in a tub of ice, victim of an organ-harvesting ring. What makes such stories memorable and ensures their spread around the globe? The authors credit six key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. They illustrate these principles with a host of stories, some familiar (Kennedy’s stirring call to “land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth” within a decade) and others very funny (Nora Ephron’s anecdote of how her high school journalism teacher used a simple, embarrassing trick to teach her how not to “bury the lead”). Throughout the book, sidebars show how bland messages can be made intriguing. Fun to read and solidly researched, this book deserves a wide readership.
Why I recommend this book. In the last column I recommended Chip and Dan’s latest book: Switch. I was so impressed that I looked up others by the same authors. This is an outstanding book on the communication of ideas. Whether you are a pastor or leader of a business, you will receive excellent tips on how to make a good idea stick. For example, everyone by now has heard of Jared the pitch man for Subway and how he lost weight eating Subway sandwiches but what you may not know is the story behind the commercials. That story alone is worth the price of this book.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan’s most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand’s heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it’s just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he’s a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft. They were captured by the Japanese and put in a POW camp. In the “theater of cruelty” that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all… Laura Hillenbrand’s triumph is that in telling Louie’s story (he’s now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption.
Why I recommend this book. This is one of the few books that I simply could not stop reading. Not only is it a great story of unbelievable courage in the midst of unimaginable cruelty but you also learn about the life of a long distance runner, a World War II bomber crew, surviving on a raft in the open sea, life in a Japanese POW camp and best of all you will learn about the power of forgiveness.