August was a crazy month, so you’ll notice these books tended to be a little shorter. The one exception is the Packer biography, which I split between July and August. As always, if you have something good for me to add to my reading list, leave me a comment!
J. I. Packer
Given the recent death of evangelical giant, J. I. Packer, it seemed appropriate to read a biography. Packer’s works, especially Knowing God and Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, have been highly formative in my life. Even with this background, Ryken’s biography opened my eyes to much I didn’t know about Packer and gave me a couple of important treatises from Packer that I have added to my reading list.
Leland organizes his biography around three sections: (1) Packer’s life events (2) Packer the man and (3) Theme’s in Packer’s life. I found the first two sections particularly enlightening, while the third was a bit redundant. If communication is a key part of your life or career, you will find chapter 16 an utter delight. Perhaps the most striking reality from Packer’s life is the significant discouragement and apparent lack of influence he felt. For a giant such as himself, this is remarkable. For me personally, it served as a helpful reminder to stay the course and let God concern Himself with the breadth of my ministry.
Favorite Quote: “I am a sinner who is gifted, or cursed, with ability to talk better than he lives, and I wouldn’t want folk to forget that.”
Taking Men Alive
Taking Men Alive came to me through the recommendation of one of my former students. It is, essentially, a call to intentional evangelism in your everyday life. I know, nobody wants to read a guilt-trip evangelism book. Wilson doesn’t guilt you, but how does push you to be proactive.
In many ways, this book is counter-cultural to much of what you hear in American Christianity about evangelism. We hear about having a relationship, answering objections, and establishing common ground (and all of these are helpful). However, Wilson helpfully reminds us that faith comes by hearing and intellectual questions can be honest doubts, or they can also be smokescreens. When’s the last time you proclaimed the Gospel (not just said you were a Christian)? Maybe you need this book more than you realize.
My Favorite Quote: “A lot of people hide behind academic questions to avoid the real issue … I am not saying that answers given in an apologetic fashion can never be helpful, but they do not cause people to become Christians. Answering intellectual questions might open the door a little bit and highlight the real problem, but it is the gospel and repentance from sin that brings people to Christ.”
Like most Lencioni books, this is an easy to read leadership fable. It’s unique in that while most of his books tell you how to lead, The Motive tells you what to consider before you lead. I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it in less than two hours.
According to Lencioni, leaders generally fall into two broad categories. They either see leadership as the reward for their work or they see leadership as a responsibility. If leadership is the reward, you’ll inevitably do the things you want to do and abdicate some of your most important work. The Motivehelps you identify ways you are abandoning your most important work and move towards a healthier leadership paradigm.
My Favorite Quote: “It’s worth repeating that many of the reward-focused CEO’s I’ve known will attempt to justify their abdication of managing their people by saying, “I hire experienced executives and I trust them. They shouldn’t need me to manage them.” Of course this is inane. Managing someone is not a punitive activity, nor a sign of distrust. And it doesn’t change based on a person’s seniority or tenure. Management is the act of aligning people’s actions, behaviors, and attitudes with the needs of the organization and making sure that little problems don’t become big ones. Avoiding this is nothing but negligence.”
9Marks has recently published a new series titled “First Steps.” It is specifically built for discipleship in the local church, especially for newer believers. The pastors at my church reviewed the entire series before recommending it to our congregation. The following three books were the ones I read and surveyed from this series.
Bible: Can We Trust It?
If someone is unfamiliar with the Bible as a whole, this is a great resource. That may be a new believer, someone who is considering Christianity for the first time, or for an upper elementary child seeking to deepen their faith. The subtitle is a bit misleading – the book does say why you can trust the Bible, but it also covers where the Bible came from, how to read it, and how the whole Bible points to Jesus.
Favorite Quote: “The Holy Spirit didn’t motivate the authors of Scripture to write. He breathed out the very Word of God through them.”
Church: Do I Have To Go?
As with the last book, the subtitle is misleading. Rather than guilt you for going to the lake instead of going to church, Kell builds a Biblical case for how to understand the church, why there are so many churches, how the church should organize, and how it’s mission should define it. Along the way, you’ll see that active participation in the life of the local church isn’t optional for Christians. You can buy it here.
Favorite Quote: “The New Testament doesn’t recognize free-agent Christians who roam around uncommitted to a local church.”
Relationships: How Do I Make Things Right?
Live just a little and you’ll realize several conflicting truisms about relationships. We need each other, but we drive each other crazy. Deep relationships provide some of life’s greatest joys, but also cut us deeper than almost anything. In this book, Dickens provides a helpful introduction to why relationships matter, how they center on Christ, and what to do when they go awry.
Favorite Quote: God has made us to glorify Him, but also to be in community with others.