An astute church member emailed me recently with a great idea.
While perusing the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she noticed the annual recommended book list provided by AJC and wondered if I would consider providing a similar list for JCBC. She reasoned that since I routinely reference books in sermons and in other venues; and since the new year brings with it a myriad of resolutions to read more, study, grow, etc… a book list from the Senior Pastor may be timely and well-received by our congregation.
My response to her was two-fold:
Brilliant. So yes. Done.
Why stop with me? What if we broadened the list to include the recommendations of our entire Ministerial Staff? After all, their readings are broad and diverse, and well worth imitation.
So to that end, this blog post represents the first in a set simply entitled, “Books!”
Over the course of the next two weeks, members of our ministerial staff will be sharing their top 3 recommendations to add to your library. With each book, we will provide a link, enabling you the opportunity to preview and/or purchase in paper form, or (where applicable) electronic form.
Disclaimer: In order not to overwhelm with an avalanche of suggestions, we are limiting ourselves to the top 3 books. Not an easy task, mind you, as there are numerous books on my shelf and in my Kindle, at present that would easily make the list.
With that said, here are 3 books I highly recommend adding to your library…
1. Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rhor.
In this book, the author keenly observes that life can be understood as lived out in two halves. In the first half of life, our pursuits are focused on what he calls “building the container.” We strive toward earning and establishing a name for ourselves. We are driven to achieve, build, climb the ladder, etc. Sometimes we arrive. Sometimes, not. Either way, somewhere around the age of 40 a shift begins to take place. We begin to ask questions about what it’s all worth. All the striving, the pursuing, the achieving. “Has it mattered?” we ask. A few may recognize what is happening inwardly, but most (a large majority) are unaware of the significant shift underway developmentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. It simply gets felt as depression or “crisis.” But Rhor makes the case (and rightly) that what is happening is the natural journey into second half of life living. He says that in the second half of life, you are less concerned with building the “container” of your life. Now of highest priority is the question: “what are the contents that are meant to go in my container?” Rhor not only describes the journey, but he equips the reader with tools to navigate well.
2. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, by Parker Palmer
In this book, the author speaks about living a life of integrity, in the truest and most literal sense. That is, living in such a way that our inward being and our outward behavior are integrated…they match. In other words, what you see is truly what you get. It is not as easy as it sounds to live a life of congruency. There are natural tugs all around us toward duplicity…to be one person in our hidden place, and another in our public. Palmer points out that in the Love of God, we have access to a hidden wholeness down deep that heals and restores our outwardly broken lives. He teaches the reader not only how to recognize the “divided life,” but also how to find healing. He provides practical guidance on how to deliberately use solitude and community in our journey toward living divided no more.
3. Overcoming Your Shadow Mission, by John Ortberg
This may be the most powerful short book I have ever read. It is approximately 100 pages, and saturated with wisdom. The author speaks about one of the values we celebrate here in our ministry: the basic belief that all followers of Jesus are called to some significant purpose or mission in this life. That conviction is monumentally true, and is one of the basic presuppositions of ministry for me. But what Ortberg points out is that while each of us has a mission; while all of us (especially leaders) have some sense of purpose or calling that governs and guides our lives, we also have a shadow mission. It is, in essence, the dark side of our real mission. For example: If a leader happens to receive affirmation and accolades routinely, it can be possible to become so dependent on the accolades that come from your mission, that the accolades become a kind of mission…a shadow mission. Ortberg demonstrates that shadow missions may only be 2 or 3 degrees off plumb. But gone unchecked, we will pursue our shadow mission with great passion, to our own demise. I hold this book in such high regard that our entire ministerial staff is currently reading it for our own formation, and I enthusiastically recommend it to you.
In addition to the links provided, many of the books that will be suggested in this, and subsequent posts may be available in our church library. You may check a book’s availability by stopping by on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings.
Johns Creek Baptist Church