The title is a little misleading because not all of the books were published in 2007. The fact that some of them were is rather irrelevant anyway. What I mean is the best books that I read in 2007. These books have all in some way expanded the way I see and understand the world, church, mission, and following Jesus. Here is a list of my top five:
1. The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne
This has been the most refreshing book since Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, only ten times as challenging. Shane’s struggle to find a middle way between the left and the right (in much more than just the political sense) is both captivating and convicting. The pages are full of reminders that God’s radical love is actualized in His community reaching out to a lost and broken world, not just in special outreach events, but in the way we live of lives. This book is highly recommended for anyone, but I warn you this book “will comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable, and invite believers to change the world with Christ’s radical love.”
2. Conspiracy of Kindness, Steve Sjogren
This book was introduced to me this past year by Wayne Cordova, Outreach Pastor at Crosspoint Church. My wife and I intern under Wayne and this was one of the first books he had me read when we arrived. It helped me understand his heart and the kind of ministry he wants to impact Spring Hill with. The book is for anyone who has ever felt nauseous when their church mentions the word outreach. I feel like I grew up subconciously knowing that outreach sucked and was embarrassing, not only for me but it did not seem to honor God very much. This book has opened my eyes to a whole new world. I know longer dread outreach, but enjoy it and look forward to it. The basic idea is servant evangelism. So instead of annoying people, you leave them with a smile. Please check out the book and begin to share God’s love in your community through service (or check out Steve’s website at servantevangelism.com).
3. No Perfect People Allowed, John Burke
This is one of the best books that I have read that deal with practical ministry in a postmodern context. Through telling stories of those God has brought to Gateway Church in Austin, TX, pastor John Burke relates how he and his staff reach the postmodern generation of twenty and thirty somethings. The overall theme is creating a culture within the church that is welcoming, accepting, and transformative all at the same time. He hits all of the issues confronting this generation: cynicism, mistrust, being tolerant but not relative, finding truth, brokenness, and aloneness. Highly recommended for anyone who is working with or a part of that generation or who simply wants to understand how this generation experiences/approaches/deals with life.
4. Glocalization, Bob Roberts
This book has broadened my look/understanding of world missions in today’s context. There is an enormous cry today to end poverty. Bob believes that the church should be at the forefront, not the fringes, of that movement. What he suggests is that large denominational and interdenominational programs will not change the world, but the people sitting in the pews of the church. Bob advocates that church leaders new role is teaching Christ-followers to use their vocations as a means of doing missions overseas in such a way that they are being light and salt while at the same time making the world a better place right now. For me, I never felt right about doing only the type of missions that meets a person’s spiritual need while ignoring his/her physical needs. Jesus clearly met both needs in his ministry. His message of hope was meant for this world, the here and now, as much as for the next world. Also, there have been many changes in the last twenty years that force us to ask new questions when it comes to our mission in the world. The changes that have taken place are called globalization. And it is in such a context that Bob has created an excellent model for Christians to transform the world both spiritually and physically.
5. The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs
There are two feelings that kept me reading this book all the way to the end, excitement and hope. It is written by an economist, so honestly it has its dry moments, but the strong belief that Sachs has that the world can be a better place keeps coming through. As Christians we must learn to love our neighbors the way Jesus intended us to. We must also come to grips with two realities: we do not know how and we have sucked at it! What I mean by that is loving our neighbors does not mean shoving Western ideas/models/structures down their throat. We have only recently come out of the Colonial era and must realize our mistake, that the church was more a part of and not a barrier to the horrors of colonialism. Part of loving our neighbors means allowing them to have the same opportunities we do. We are all equal, according to Paul, and that should include economically. Sachs explains that building up the third world economically does not necessarily mean a decrease in our own wealth, but instead would create a safer, freer world for everyone to enjoy. This book has broadened my view in the world and I think it will for anyone who picks it up.