A mom and her three kids were standing in my office, cheerfully awaiting the information I was seeking for them as visitors to our church. The seven-year-old looked around and asked, “Is this the library?”
A logical question! My walls are lined with books, and that budding reader may have been amazed to know that I’ve read most of them. (Who reads commentaries from cover to cover? Although I have actually done that a time or two.) One of the reasons I have decided not to pursue further graduate education is because I can satisfy my curiosity on many subjects through any books I want to read; I don’t have to be locked into a research topic.
When I was young, I often took books home from school even though I didn’t have any homework. Odd, I know. Over the years I have realized that books are my security. I never go anywhere without a book or two, just in case I have a few moments to read. When I go on vacation, I usually have more books than I need; I wouldn’t want to run out!
I come by this obsession honestly. When my siblings and I get together, we discuss books. We often leave with books from my sister, who buys them by the bagful.
In 2012 I made the commitment to get up an hour early to read the Bible and pray. That habit now includes reading on a number of spiritual topics, including resources that feed into my ministry and sermons. I have never felt so balanced and creative. My appetite for good reading has never waned, and I hope it never will. I truly subscribe to a Chinese adage: “Wear the old coat. Buy the new book.”
Maybe some of the books I recommend will be helpful to you also. If nothing else, I can save you the time of reading a book that isn’t what you need. I will try to categorize them by general topics.
About the Bible: Its Purpose and/or Interpretation in General
All of Brian McClaren’s Books…I am especially appreciating A New Kind of Christianity, and We Make the Road by Walking. A good introduction to McClaren is Generous Orthodoxy. After you read it you will know whether you want to read more.
Richard Rohr: Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
Bart Ehrman: Introduction to the New Testament
Perspectives on Faith
Marcus Borg: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time
Frank Schaeffer: Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God If you are feeling stuck in your discipleship, see what he has to say.
On Following Jesus
Ann Voskamp: One Thousand Gifts. Ann has a unique style, but she got me shifted to a stance of gratitude, and it changed my life.
Sara Miles: Take This Bread and City of God. What it means to live like Jesus.
Richard Stearns: The Hole in Our Gospel. The story of his call is worth the price, but the rest of the book is absolutely compelling as well.
Help for Ministry
The Joy of Ministry by Thomas Curry. This book helped me when I felt broken by the demands of ministry.
The Sense of the Call by Marva Dawn. This scholarly author shows how keeping Sabbath as ministers is critical for ourselves and for the people we serve.
Malcolm Guite: Sounding the Seasons and Parable and Paradox. His breathtaking sonnets deserve to be read over and over. You can use the seasons on for the church year.
Sermons and the Art of Preaching
The sermons of Fred Craddock. All of them! (available in book form)
The sermons and books of Barbara Brown Taylor. I love her sermons so much, I have them catalogued for easy reference! Her memoirs are also good: An Altar in the World and Leaving Church.