Here’s a rundown of the 9 books that I read in July. It includes a number of missionary biographies. Happy reading!
PIONEERING MOVEMENTS: LEADERSHIP THAT MULTIPLIES DISCIPLES AND CHURCHES by Steve Addison
This book is a game changer for those who take it seriously. To be honest … the author of this book would more than likely look at my ministry and see that I don’t take it seriously. This is my second complete reading of this book. I’ve thumbed through it countless times. I see the truth that it holds. I remain wrestling with living it out. In complete transparency … I need to train more disciples.
This is not a book about church growth. This is a book about multiplication. This is not a book about church. This is a book about movements. Addison argues for multiplication of disciples and churches through movement leadership. Here are Addison’s 5 stages of movement leadership: seed sower, church planter, church multiplier, multiplication trainer, and movement catalyst. These are not simply hip and catchy titles. The book provides substance and numerous real life examples.
Here’s a glance at a few of the terms that might be unfamiliar. Church multiplies are church planters who have learned how to start churches that reproduce generations of new churches. These people move beyond adding new churches to multiplying them to fourth generations and beyond. Multiplication trainers are church multipliers who have learned to equip other church multipliers to achieve third and fourth generation churches. Movement catalysts are those who take on a broad responsibility to reach an unreached population segment or region. They are the catalysts for multiple streams of church planting within a previously unengaged and unreached people group.
The book challenges the well-established way to “do church” and reach people. I found the book extremely challenging to my way of thinking. I have yet to fully digest it.
Bruchko: The Astonishing True Story of a 19 Year Old American ~ His Capture By The Motile Indians and His Adventures in Christianizing the Stone Age Tribe by Bruce Olson
I found this book in a used bookstore. While I had never read it before, I was familiar with the story. I picked it off the shelf to thumb through it but was stunned when I read the scribbled inspiration on the flyleaf: “This book change my life. ~Wynetta.” I stopped thumbing and immediately placed it in my stack to purchase. How can you a book up that carries that type of recommendation!?!
The extremely wordy subtle gives you the premise of the book. Yet, it does not grasp the power of the story. Bruce Olson devoted his life to spreading the gospel in a place that no one previously dared to go. God worked in mighty ways. My heart was stirred by the love of the gospel and the love of people depicted in Olson’s story.
In this reading log you’ll find a number missionary biographies. This is a favorite genre of mine. I turn to missionary biographies when I’m feeling the burden of pastoral ministry. Nothing snaps me out of rut like reading about men and women fully devoted to God and those open to being used by God in extreme circumstances. It is a great balm for a tired pastoral heart. This book was good for my soul. And it sparked the reading of others like it.
The Ralph D. Winter Story: How One Man Dared to Shake Up World Missions by Harold Fickett
This was the next book up in my missionary biography reading tour. Winter was an interesting man and nothing less than a pioneer in the area of missiology. He, along with his family, served as Presbyterian missionaries in Guatemala from 1956 to 1966. He went on to found the U.S. Center for World Mission, William Carey International University, and the International Society for Frontier Missiology. From 1966 to 1976 Winter served as a professor at Fuller Seminary. As a skilled scholar he produced voluminous work in the areas of Biblical studies and missiology. He was a proponent of inductive Bible study and evangelizing the world.
In numerous places I’ve stumble upon this quote from Billy Graham: “Ralph Winter has not only helped promote evangelism among many mission boards around the world, but by his research, training and publishing he has accelerated world evangelization.” Good enough for me.
The book highlights Winter’s career trajectory as a contrarian. He was constantly seeking a better way of doing things for the purpose of more people coming to know Jesus Christ. This forces you to sometimes ask, “Geez, did this guy ever enjoy anything? Did he every get along with anyone?” Despite the answers to those questions, his legacy is tremendous.
The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken
Another missionary biography. This was a reread for me. I read it when it was first published and I enjoyed just as much on the second read.
Ripken (and family) responded to the missionary call and moved from the hills of Kentucky to war-torn Somalia. The story is not spectacular. It does not give details of mass conversion and revival. Rather, the pages are filled with persecution. The reality of persecution in Somalia led Ripken to travel the world and interview those effected by the grips of persecution. The first half of the book essentially tells a bit of Ripken in Somalia and the second half gives you bits of information from his interviews from around the persecuted Christian world.
If I should be so bold: This needs to be required reading for those who pastor a church in the United States of America. It gives great insight to how many churches function around the world.
Persecution. Faith. Persecution. Faith. Persecution. Faith. Persecution. Faith.
The author writes under a pen name due the danger faced by many about which he writes. While the names are changed, the story are true. Even if they sound strangley unfamiliar to those in the US.
The World’s Religions by Huston Smith
This work is readily used among college courses in the study of world religions. And for good reason. I’ve read a number of texts on world religions (but not far enough of them!) and this one stands out as unique. Some texts on world religions come from a stated biased viewpoint. For example, So What’s the Difference? by Fritz Ridenour compares world religions with Christianity for the purpose of showing the superiority of the Christian faith. Other text on world religions read like a textbook. The writing is dull, generic and interrupted with charts, graphs, and bullet points. Smith avoids both bias and generic writing.
While Christianity is chapter 8 in the book, I read it first. As a Christian pastor, I figured that I could get a good opening judgment on the book if I first judged the volume on the subject that is the center of my life. Of course, I would argue numerous points in Smith’s telling of the Christian faith, but its a fair rendering of the Christian faith and teachings of Jesus.
I’ve read a number of volumes on Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. Smith covers these religions fairly and in significant depth. It must be said that the strengths of this work might be viewed as a weakness to some. While Smith’s writing has flair and beauty, it does not lend to a quick reading and understanding of a religion that might be unknown to the reader. It will take time to digest the 30 to 40 pages on each religion covered.
The Normal Christian Life: Watchman Nee
I don’t know how I made it this far in my reading life without diving into Watchman Nee. I was unprepared for this one. From the first page this volume drops golden nuggets of spiritual and biblical insight. Nothing poetic or controversial … just simple but powerful truth.
Here is a taste: “What is holiness? Many people think we become holy by the eradication of something evil within. No, we become holy by being separated unto God.” And more: “Because the Lord Jesus died on the Cross, I have received forgiveness of sins; because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, I have received new life; because the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the father, I have received the outpoured Spirit. All is because of Him; nothing his because of me. Remission of sin is not based on human merit, but on the Lord’s crucifixion; regeneration is not based on human merit, but the Lord’s resurrection; and the endowment with the Holy Spirit is not based on human merit, but on the Lord’s exaltation.”
The Normal Christian Life is essentially an exposition of Romans 5~8. Its a tough read at points because it provides no filler. The life of Watchman Nee adds to the depth of insights providing in his writing. Preaching at the time of Communist Revolution in China, Nee was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith. he spun the last 20 years of his life in prison.
The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham
The beauty of Meecham’s book is its understated nature. It is obviously a response to the current political climate. That is to say, Meacham is responding to President Trump and the moment in time and the people in time that voted him into office. Yet, President Trump’s name, to my count, only appears nine times ~ and always in a respectful manner. Occasionally a paragraph like this one slips into focus:
“In a twenty-first-century hour when the presidency has more in common with reality television or professional wrestling, its useful to recall how the most consequential of our past presidents have unified and inspired with conscious dignity and conscientious efficiency.”
Politics aside, I appreciate Meecham refrain. He communicates his message without mud slinging or name calling. What is his message? The United States has been through tough times before … and made it is safely to the other side of the shore. Meacham delivers this message by telling a few well known stories. Those stories of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Martin Luther King Jr., and others, are told alongside lesser known stories that show dark days. Though his creative story telling, Meacham shows that the “soul of America” is strong enough to get us through the darkest of days.
Alexander Hamilton: The Illustrated Biography by Richard Sylla
This volume is essentially Ron Chernow’s Hamilton tome reduced to nuts and bolts but livened up with beautiful illustrations and maps. It is a gorgeous book. Yet, don’t let that slip you into dismissing it merely as a coffee table book. Sylla knows his subject. He is a Hamilton scholar, chairman of the Museum of American Finance, professor emeritus of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is also a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is more than equipped to write on America’s founding Treasury Secretary.
I’ve read numerous books on Alexander Hamilton and I’ve listened to the Hamilton The Musical Soundtrack for three years straight. This is a welcomed addition to the obsession. Yet, I realize that other might not share my obsession.
The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer
It’s been a while since I read a book that I contemplated not reading unto completion. This one tempted m to give up numerous times. I purchased it years ago because of the info on the jacket copy. Yet, it was apparent very early on in the plot that the jacket copy merely told one sliver of the story … and I was only interested in that one sliver.
The jacket copy reads: “In chapter four of the Bible, Cain kills Abel. It is the world’s most famous murder. But the Bible is silent about one key detail: the weapon Cain used to kill his brother, that weapon is still lost to history.” Yes! A work of fiction that features a book as the main character (title of book) and is filled with religious and Biblical themes (jacket copy). Count me in. It seemed like a book in the vain of The DaVinci Code. Despite all of its silliness, I love the book in The Da Vinci Code series. I appreciate a quick read, a fun story, and the nonreligious attempting to use the Bible to write conspiracy theory works of fiction.
Yet, strangely enough, this book had less to do with Cain and Abel and more to do with the comic book Superman. No joke. I wish I was kidding.