Best Books of 2014

30 Jan

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CRM President Sam Metcalf has been known to say, "A good leader is an avid reader." It's true that what we read shapes who we are, what we believe, and how we do the work we're called to do. We've collected a list of the best books our organizational leaders read in 2014 with topics ranging from leadership to localized ministry to the theology of pain and suffering. We hope your own life with God will be enriched by reading a few of these favorites.

FROM BOBBY BOOZE | Bobby is operations director of Ethne, a gathering of teams around the world committed to bringing the good news of Jesus across cultural and geographic boundaries. Here are Bobby's recommendations:

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller
Keller addresses the question of pain and suffering — a deep question we all face — in the most comprehensive way I've ever read. He first analyzes how different cultures and religions address the question and then delves deeply into Christianity's theological approach to pain and suffering. Finally, he addresses practically how we can face and get through the suffering that comes upon us. I was deeply encouraged by the superiority of Christianity's answer to this question and the practical postures he outlines in the final third of the book.

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill
This book gives a deep appreciation for the struggle and loneliness that believers with same sex attraction face. Hill's apologetic for choosing celibacy challenged me personally in choosing to resist my own areas of temptation and accepting the unfulfilled desires in my life.

FROM DIANE MOSS | Diane is operations director of InnerCHANGE, CRM's order among the poor. Here are Diane's recommendations:

Leading From the Sandbox: How to Develop, Empower, and Release High-Impact Ministry Teams by T.J. Eddington
In Leading from the Sandbox, Eddington writes a wonderfully practical book about how to create teams for ultimate success and results. He builds his ideas step-by-step throughout each chapter, including compelling stories and examples to make the material sing. Not only that, but his writing is easy to understand and applicable for leaders across the board.

Releasing Heaven on Earth: Removing the Barriers to Effective Evangelism, Revival, and Lasting Transformation by Alistair Petrie
Releasing Heaven on Earth is a compelling yet simple book that lays out the concepts of supernatural ministry in a practical and straightforward way. Petrie includes stories and examples to highlight the before and after of releasing strongholds, and references Scripture to give the ideas a solid grounding in the teaching of God’s word.

FROM ERIC PURCELL | Eric served as interim director of :Beta: for several months during 2014. He and his wife, Lisa, live and serve in Omaha, Nebraska. Here are Eric's recommendations:

Leading With a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness by Dan Allender
Leading with a Limp is an honest look at the human side of being a leader—the mistakes we make, the complexities we face, and the brokenness with which we lead. When leaders face their weaknesses honestly and with courage, rather than hiding or running from them, our "limps" become our greatest leadership assets. Allender skillfully describes how this happens and how to engage the process.

Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood by Alan Roxburgh
In Missional, Roxburgh builds a case that the problems facing the Church today are less about getting church “right" and trying to be more relevant, and more about having failed at listening to the culture, the Church, and Scripture for what God is already doing out ahead of us. The place that he believes we need to go to listen to what God is doing is in the nitty-gritty and normal humdrum of everyday life in our neighborhoods.

FROM GARY MAYES | Gary is director of ChurchNEXT, a gathering of specialized teams committed to renewing the impact and health of the Church worldwide. Here are Gary's recommendations:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
We are presented with the option for so many good things every day, but leaders have to decide which things to say yes and no to. Essentialism is about the “disciplined pursuit of less” — not less for its own sake, but less in order to achieve better. The book artfully blends inspiration and practical strategies for helping leaders focus on the things that matter most in order to accomplish what really matters.

FROM JODY HOVDA | Jody is general director of Ethne. She lives and serves with her husband, Paul, in Novi Sad, Serbia. Here are Jody's recommendations:

As Soon as I Fell: A Memoir by Kay Bruner
Many of us grew up being inspired by biographies of missionary greats — Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, Amy Carmichael. As great as it is to be inspired by such heroes, the nitty-gritty of our own lives and service, our own struggles and the realities of this time in history, often leave us feeling like missionary failures by comparison. This is a missionary (auto)biography for our time. In what feels like a case study for emotionally healthy spirituality, Bruner tells her story with compelling honesty. She is someone you want to have coffee with because you know she’ll “get it”. While almost all readers can find themselves somewhere in her story, we are all challenged to press into the God who loves us beyond compare and will catch us as soon as we finally fall.

The Grace Outpouring: Becoming a People of Blessing by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts
In the form of a memoir, Roberts captures the story of Roy and Daphne Godwin and their founding of a house of prayer at Ffald-y-Brenin, Wales. The subtitle "Becoming a People of Blessing" largely captures the results of one couple committed to blessing their community and all that crossed the threshold of their retreat center. The Spirit of God has done amazing things in that place, and I’ve been inspired to speak and pray blessings over my family, our community, and our country. More than any other, this book has changed how I pray.

Western Christians in Global Mission: What's the Role of the North American Church by Paul Borthwick
Borthwick has decades of experience with one foot planted in the North American church and the other somewhere else on the globe. His straightforward, conversational style of writing allows him to engage a weighty matter and say tough things without alienating his reader. This book is a hugely practical tool for North American Christians who want to play a role in God’s global Kingdom purposes today and long into the future. The center of gravity in the Christian world and mission involvement has shifted, and will continue to, away from the West. In this shifting reality, Borthwick doesn’t leave us feeling hopeless. He assesses where the North American church is, where the Majority World church is, and what it will take to move forward. The key is partnerships, and I believe CRM is well postured to influence the global church and her leaders in this changing world.

FROM SAM METCALF | Sam has served as the president of CRM since 1985. His passion to develop leaders so that movements of new expressions of the Church are started informs everything he does as the leader of CRM around the world. Here are his recommendations:

The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church...and How to Prepare by John S. Dickerson
This is one of the best statistical and analytical descriptions of the decline of Christendom in the West that I know of. It is a sobering, well-documented overview of the sad state of institutional Christianity. While the first half of the book is worth the price of the book, the latter chapters are lacking in the solutions preferred. Dickerson nails the need for “discipleship” to be at the heart of renewal, but he is weak on the particulars and how this actually works.

The DNA of a Revolution: 1st Century Breakthroughs that will Transform the Church by Gary Mayes
In contrast to John Dickerson, Gary Mayes addresses the solutions to The Great Evangelical Recession. His solutions are not only biblically grounded, but are also incredibly applicable to the Church as it is and the Church that could be. Gary writes from extensive experience and leads 15 diverse teams that are committed to such a revolution in the religious scene in the West.

What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World by Steve Addison
In this book, which is a follow-up to Steve's earlier volume, Movements That Changed the World, Steve lays out a very workable, step-by-step process for implementing movement dynamics among people who are far from God. This paradigm is workable — and has worked — in numerous and diverse settings around the world.

FROM TRAVIS COLLINS | Travis is director of :Beta:, a network of missional communities focused on reaching Western urban contexts with the good news of Jesus. Here are Travis's recommendations:

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott
"If we want to make any lasting transformation in the world, we must come out from behind ourselves into the conversations and make them real." This is what fierce conversations are all about. This books is a practical guide for leaders to engage reality and relationships in a way that, through what Scott calls fierce conversations, transformation is possible. Simply put, it is a leadership book that offers concrete techniques around having honest and transformative conversations.

Introduction to a Theology of Place by Leonard Hjalmarson
Our current Western reality is one of fragmentation, mobility, dualism, and individualism, all of which work against our sense of belonging and our ability to dwell richly in the places where we live and work. These conditions make it difficult to embrace a call to live on mission in the world. This book seeks to marry a Biblical theology of place — how God has related to “place” from Genesis to today and what role it plays in our mission — with our mandate of making disciples.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton
This book is a classic that challenges my soul every time I read it. It has challenged me to interrogate the motives of my leadership and the places in my heart from which I lead. It is not a leadership “how to” book, but rather a soul searching book calling for a life of authenticity and spiritual health. This is a book that all leaders, young and old, should read. It orients us around what is deep within each of us as God's beloved.

The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship, and Community by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, and Dwight Friesen
This book puts language and vision to what many of us who live and minister in our local neighborhoods have been feeling for years. There is a revolution taking place, and the Church in the U.S. is returning to “the local.” The New Parish begins an imaginative and theological conversation about how a life of vitality and following the Spirit looks in the places where we live and work, a.k.a. our neighborhoods. This book is thought provoking, convicting, challenging, and inspiring for anyone who takes seriously the invitation of discipleship to Jesus. It is a book for anyone who wants to participate in the movement of God.