Here’s a rundown of the 6 books I finished in July. I have a few more books near completion that will have to wait for the August log. This was another month aided by my doctoral studies. Happy reading!
Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life by William Willimon
I’ll get the required reading out of the way first. This work by Will Willimon was the first one up. As I stated last month my upcoming doctor of ministry seminar covers kingdom theology and leadership. This book obviously falls under the leadership category. Willimon provides a look at leadership from the unique perspective of clergy. I would much prefer a word other than clergy – perhaps minister – but let us not digress. He does a great job of highlighting the interesting right rope that must be walked by ministers of the gospel. A minister is “just a normal Christian” but is treated unlike the normal Christian, is put is an abnormal position unlike the normal Christian, and is held to standard unlike a normal Christian. How are clergy to respond? Willimon provides solid answers. This is not groundbreaking material but the book is driven by Willimon’s blunt approach which often crosses the line of stepping on toes into foot smashing.
Willimon covers the big themes of the character of clergy, the pastor in community, cross bearing and the clergy, and new creation. The book at times does meander and lack cohesion and purpose. Yet, ultimately it provides a great primer to the topic.
The Misunderstanding of the Church by Emil Brunner
Those interested in a nice, fluffy Saturday read need to beware of this thin volume. You can feel safe in knowing that you will not accidentally stumble unto this book. It is out of print and a bit pricey. When I first went to purchase it the used copies on Amazon were all over $40. I just checked and a few copies are now available for under $20. While looking to church purchase this book I was leery of buying a used copy and receiving it filled with margin notes, underlines, and highlights. This would not work with me needing to read it for a D Min seminar. So … I found book publisher in England selling news copies of the book. The price was steep – but I have a clean copy.
Brunner’s aim in this book is to criticize – perhaps correct – the common practice in Roman Catholic and Protestant thinking in identifying the modern church with the New Testament Ecclesia. Ouch. You read that correctly. He argues that the modern church is more of an institution than the body of Christ. The church described in the New Testament is one of fellowship characterized by communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit and also dynamic communion with one another. He argues the institutional church of todays’s world has developed over time through a complicated and ugly process that has moved the church from the New Testament Ecclesia to the institutional church.
It’s a fair critique is some ways. Yet, in other ways I feel Brunner pokes the church with a stick without ever allowing the church to defend itself.
Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures by Gary MacIntosh and Samuel Rima
My final completed D Min reading for the month. It is a book I very much appreciated without enjoying it. The title and subtitle gives a great overview of this work.
This is a book that needs to be written for pastors. We’ve all seen too many ministries destroyed by leaders unwilling to take care of their own junk. I really enjoy the discussion of the “dark side” of leadership. While “dark side” may seem sinister (or like something out of Star Wars), the principle is real and hopefully evident to all those in leadership positions. For a very brief and general example, I’m a high achiever. I set goals and will do anything to accomplish them. This is aided by the ability to focus, enjoyment of completing tasks, and skills in administration. Yet, this aspect of my leadership comes with the tendency to overwork and failure to delegate work to others. The authors would call this the dark side. This must be monitored and addressed or I will run myself into the ground.
Why did I not enjoy this book? This book (like many others) forced me to deliver one of my favorite lines: “Stay in your lane.” I mutter this phrase when people wander out of their area of expertise and begin to discuss other topics while still wearing the “expert hat.” The authors of this book move from pastoral leadership into areas of counseling, behavioral science, and other topics while still speaking with the same authority.
Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore
I read this book partially because it falls into an area of personal interest and partially in preparation for an upcoming sermon series. Moore provides a primer on cultural engagement from a gospel perspective. There are a few aspects of this book that I absolutely love. Moore should be commended for this effort.
I loved that Moore started from a kingdom perspective. He does not start from social commentary or political engagement. No. He begins with a lengthy discussion on the kingdom of God. A great place to start. Scratch that. The best place to start. I loved the tone of Moore’s work. He engages topics with a tone that represents Jesus well. He does not name call or vilify anyone or any perspective. Yet, he does put forth a Jesus-centered argument.
I’m guessing that many people will displeased with Moore’s book. Some will say, “He didn’t go far enough.” Some will say, “He let them of the hook too easily.” The beauty of this book – those comments will come from both sides of the aisle.
Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar
A fabulous book for those interested in some nitty gritty details about marathon running and the quest for a sub two hour time. Caesar is an accomplished writer with an passion for the sport of running. These combined traits make this book a winner. The writing is great – a frequently missing component from books written by “fans” of a sport.
Caesar’s volume provides a glimpse to into the efforts made by marathoners to record a time under 2 hours – a feat not yet accomplished. The book asks the question: Is a two hour time humanly possible? Without being a science book or getting too technical, it provides some research on the topic. The bigger focus of the book is documenting men who have attempted to be the first “two hour guy.” Mostly, the book provides great biographical material on Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya who has attempted the feat but come up a bit slow. Mutai’s fastest time was 2:03:02 recorded at the Boston Marathon in 2011, a time many people have unfairly stated was aided by wind.
My love for running and good writing made me love this book. For the record, a two hour marathon is not in my future.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
The battle of Hogwarts. That about says it all. I’ve finished the seventh book in the Harry Potter series. This was a fantastic conclusion to the story. I began the Harry Potter saga back in October of 2015. I was leery. I was skeptical. Ultimately, I’ve been won over. It’s a great story filled with lovable characters and numerous interesting character developments and plot twists. This was a fitting conclusion.
I picked a tremendous time to start and finish the books. Just three days ago the eighth installment was released … sort of. A play is currently running in London telling another Harry Potter story. The play script was released in book form at midnight on July 31. I preordered my copy and Amazon delivered it into my hot little hands at 2pm on August 1. You’ll see my write up on “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” next month.