Every so often the question is posed to me, “What are you reading these days?” I understand that each of us has individual reading tastes just as we each have favorite foods. I love chocolate — oh, how I love chocolate! Yet, a steady diet of chocolate is not good for anyone. With that in mind, you may feel like the books I suggest to you are in the favorite foods category. I am willing to admit that might well be the case.
A few years ago, a friend asked me why I read so much history, especially military history. My answer to him was a bit lame, but it was an attempt to be honest with my dear friend and colleague. I said that I believe a student of war may better understand the need for peace and the pathway to that peaceful existence. Frankly, most all wars or conflicts are avoidable, at least in the retrospective view.
But back to the subject of recommended reading for those who may be interested in my suggestions concerning the matter: Let me begin with a magisterial work in the history category. Robert A. Caro has published his fourth book in a biographical series, focusing on the life of Lyndon Johnson. Passage to Power is one of his best works. The strengths and weaknesses of this president are explored in detail.
When President Johnson assumed the mantle of leadership following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he began a crisis management process which is textbook in nature. Whatever opinion one has of this controversial figure, you have to respect the overall way he led the nation during this crisis period. Be warned: Lyndon Johnson had a vocabulary which can really challenge your sensitivities. He was straightforward and profane in his conversational style.
Other suggested books will not have a warning level for language on them. Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers is one such work. Gary Neal Hansen has taken historical figures in Christian history and given them the opportunity to teach us valuable lessons on prayer. This is a rich and rewarding book to read. It will give you the needed inspiration to go deeper in the discipline of prayer as a believer in Christ, who is our ultimate teacher.
Robertson McQuilkin has authored an interesting work titled The Five Smooth Stones. He describes the stones as the essentials for biblical ministry. He does not write from a cooperating Southern Baptist perspective in terms of missions, but he does offer some salient observations about ministry in today’s complicated culture. I do have some concerns about application, but his observations are worthy of consideration.
The same sentiment could be expressed about Tribal Church, by Steve Stroope. I do not particularly like the title, but I do admit it fits the book well. Stroope sees the tribes as being within the church. His effort is to help church leaders understand the culture of the congregation. In that sense, he is right on target and his insights can be applicable to our ministry situations.
The Shaping of an Effective Leader, by Gayle D. Beebe is another book deserving of our attention. Steve Forbes wrote the foreword, and the book is also endorsed by David Dockery of Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Eight formative principles are expounded in the book, and they have weight in my mind for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the author draws heavily on the influence of the late Peter Drucker. You can see the Drucker effect all through the pages of this volume, and that is significant to me.
Are you concerned about dealing with conflict in your arena of influence? Leveraging Your Communication Style, by John Jackson and Lorraine Bosse-Smith, may be a helpful tool for you. The authors go to considerable lengths to assist the reader in better understanding of one’s own communication style. Obviously, the way a leader communicates determines the level of conflict one has and how the presenting issues are handled. This is a good piece of work in an area where leaders may have blind spots.
The Next Christians is another in an ever growing number of books which clearly focuses on the younger, emerging generation coming of age in the second decade of the 21st century. Personally, I like this book far better than the earlier one, Unchristian. Gabe Lyons, the author, takes a more positive view of the traits and prospects of this new generation of potential Christian leaders. He endeavors to offer guiding motifs personified by this younger generation.
What God Thinks When We Fail is a real source of encouragement. You and I do not have to be reminded that we are prone to fail in life in various ways. How we view a loss of a job, a bad decision, a failure in relationships and those setbacks in ministry determines our effectiveness as a leader among God’s people. Steven C. Roy offers some wise counsel and a true voice of encouragement for these difficult times in life. When I read this book I felt refreshed and renewed. It came at a good time for me.
Sometimes I purchase books because of the title. Glorious Mess is one example. Mike Howerton takes the familiar account of Jonah and brings it to life in our world of ministry. You may not like all he has to say, but I do believe it is worthy of consideration on your reading list for the near future. As the author reminds us, “There is a love that doesn’t give up.”
Okay, maybe there was too much chocolate in this book list. It is just a sampling of some personal reading. I am not a voracious reader, but through the years, I have enjoyed a steady diet of books which have helped me along the way. As the old trite expression goes, “The only difference in who you are now and what you will be ten years from now, is found in the experiences you have, the people you come to know, the places you travel, and the books you read.”