The Microscope

microscopeCOVID-19 has revealed much about the human character. It’s also revealed, in my opinion, the things that we suck at as Americans: grief, slowing down, and giving up control.

I have been a pastor for more than fifteen years. During that time, I experienced, presided over, and took part in many funerals. As if all those experiences weren’t enough, losing both of my parents revealed to me just how awkward we can be around death and grief.

I honestly think that one of the reasons why we suck at grief is the fact that we also suck at slowing down. In reality, this trifecta of underachieving is completely connected. We suck at grief because we can’t (or won’t) slow down and we won’t slow down because we can’t give up control.

It seems like a vicious cycle.

Once upon a time, people would take time to grieve. There were days set aside to grieve your loved ones. That’s not to say that grief can be contained to a few hours or days, but at least there was time carved out to grieve.

As we journey through COVID-19 and all of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual repercussions that it is taking on our world, how many of us have taken time to grieve? I mean, really grieve. Have you cried over the things that you’ve lost? It doesn’t matter how great or how small they are, grief is grief and the size of the thing being grieved should have no bearing on the level to which we grieve for it.

I don’t think it’s only that we haven’t grieved, I think it’s that we’ve actually run from grief. We’ve filled our heads with Tiger King or streamed another new show on Netflix. We’ve started new projects that we’ve put off for years. We’ve watched YouTube to finally hone that hidden talent that we’ve known we’ve had but never had the time to invest in it.

I’m not saying that some of those things aren’t good. Sometimes we need to be distracted, but distractions that take us away from the important things in life, even grief, can simply prolong what’s coming.

We don’t slow down well either.

So many people are sharing on social media how much they’ve valued this time of slowing down. Some of us weren’t running at frenetic paces before this all began, so slowing down wasn’t something we needed to be forced to do. In reality, God created an automatic weekly slowdown to help our rhythm when he created the Sabbath, but when’s the last time that you really enjoyed or experienced a Sabbath? I’m not talking about just laying in the hammock and doing nothing, but a real soul-quenching Sabbath that energized you and gave you peace?

Ironically, I think that one group of people who has experienced the antithesis of slowing down during all this is pastors. As I watch my social media feeds scroll past, I see some of them running at unsustainable paces, trying desperately to justify their existence and fill the airwaves with enough content to give a PhD student a headache.

We don’t slow down because speeding up somehow makes us feel like we’re still in control.

I’ve got news for you, you were never really in control to begin with. The illusion of control is not really control, it just makes us think that we’re in control.

There are some areas of our country where “going with the flow” seems to fit them well. There are others where “going with the flow” would be hard if they were strapped to an inner tube rushing towards a waterfall (which this has kind of felt like more days than not).

This time has acted as a microscope of sorts, revealing to us all the hidden things that we were either aware of or not, but that were there waiting to be exposed.

Here’s the good news: this isn’t ending anytime soon. Well, that’s kind of good news. But as states begin to roll out plans for their phased reopenings, I don’t expect that any level of “normalcy” will be reached in the days or weeks ahead.

In other words, we’ve got time to work on these things. Grieve. Slow down. Relinquish control. As they say, practice makes perfect, and I think we’ve got some time to do just that.

Book Plan for 2020

open-booksLast year, in an effort to read more of the books on my list, I dropped the number of books on my book plan to 24. I still was only able to get through a little more than one third of those books.

It hasn’t discouraged me at all that I’ve never made it through a year having successfully read all the books on my book plan. Life has a way of taking us through twists and turns that we never expected. I find myself picking up books that have sat on my shelf unread for a long time only to find that when I come to that book, it’s the perfect moment in time for its contents to hit me in a way that I will be shaped and formed by it.

Some of these books are carryovers from last year, books that I never finished or didn’t even start. Hoping to get through those. If I can get through half this list, I will be happy. Having a focus is the most helpful thing about this list.

Without further ado, here is my plan. Feel free to comment or add your suggestions. I am always open to hear new thoughts and ideas.

James Baldwin “Notes of a Native Son”

Samuel Chand “Leadership Pain”

Ashley Cleveland “Disunity in Christ”

James Cone “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”

Matthew Everhard “A Theology of Joy”

Dominique Gilliard “Rethinking Incarceration”

Darrell Guder “Missional Church”

Daniel Hill “White Awake”

Wesley Hill “Spiritual Friendship”

Alan Hirsch and Debra Hirsch “Untamed”

Alan Hirsch & Mark Nelson “Reframation”

Zora Neale Hurston “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

John Irving “A Prayer For Owen Meany”

Philip Jenkins “The Next Christendom”

Tim Keller “Ministries of Mercy”

Tim Keller “Center Church”

Jack Kerouac “On the Road”

Stephen King “It”

Patrick Lencioni “The Ideal Team Player”

Alister McGrath “C.S. Lewis”

Sally Morgenthaler “Worship Evangelism”

Michelle Munger “Margins of Grace”

Carey Nieuwhof “Didn’t See It Coming”

John Pavlovitz “A Bigger Table”

Soong-Chan Rah “The Next Evangelicalism”

Alan Roxburgh “The Missional Leader”

Fred Schruers “Billy Joel”

Robin Scruggs “The New Testament and Homosexuality”

Sylvia Thomson-Smith, Johanna W.H. Van Wijk-Bos, et. Al. “Called Out With”

Howard Thurman “Jesus and the Disinherited”

Jemar Tisby “The Color of Compromise”

Frank Viola “Reimagining Church”

Mark Yarhouse “Understanding Gender Dysphoria”

Books Read (and finished) in 2019

20180103_090939In 2019, I read 51 books. That’s down from 2018 when I read 66 books. Of the 51 books that I read, 14 were books that were reviewed for publishers (that’s about 27% of my total 51). 9 of the books were from my reading plan (about 18% of my total 51). My reading plan for 2019 contained 24 books total, so I didn’t quite get through half of the books that I planned to get through.

I’ve been doing this for about 5 or 6 years and I continue to set myself up to be as successful and efficient as possible, but focus has never been one of my strengths and I easily get like a dog with a squirrel when it comes to books. Distracted. But having a list is helpful to provide some amount of focus that I don’t have without it.

Out of all the books that I read in 2019, these were among the top. Two of the five of them have reviews written on them by me, click on the titles to get to those reviews.

Tod Bolsinger “Canoeing the Mountains”

David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock “Faith For Exiles

Will Mancini “Church Unique”

Simon Sinek “Start With Why”

Ryan Thomas “You of Little Faith

Here are the other books read this year:

Mark Achtemeier “The Bible’s YES to Same Sex Marriage”

Vicky Beeching “Undivided”

Nadia Bolz-Weber “Shameless – A Sexual Reformation”

D.A. Carson “Basics For Believers”

Edmund Chan “A Certain Kind”

Francis Chan “Letters to the Church”

Phil Collins “Not Dead Yet”

Andy Crouch “Culture Making”

Dominic Done “When Faith Fails”

David Duchovny “Bucky F*cking Dent”

Shusaku Endo “Silence”

Christopher L. Heuertz “The Sacred Enneagram”

Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers “I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening)

Brian Hunter “The Hunter Equation”

Wayne Jacobsen, Arnita Taylor, and Robert Prater “A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation”

Skye Jethani “Futureville”

Beth Felker Jones “Faithful – A Theology of Sex”

Erik Larson “The Devil in the White City”

Lecrae “Unashamed”

Justin Lee “Talking Across the Divide”

Patrick Lencioni “Death By Meeting”

Tremper Longman III “Confronting Old Testament Controversies”

Bryan Loritts “Right Color Wrong Culture”

Eric Mason “Woke Church”

Alister McGrath “Narrative Apologetics”

Cara Meredith “The Color of Life”

Henri Nouwen “Adam: God’s Beloved”

Barack Obama “The Audacity of Hope”

Kevin Palau “Unlikely”

Jackie Hill Perry “Gay Girl, Good God”

Kara Powell and Steven Argue “Growing With”

Thom Rainer “Scrappy Church”

Jim Russell “Between the Ears”

Fleming Rutledge “Three Hours – Sermons for Good Friday”

Scott Sauls “Irresistible Faith”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church at the End of the 20th Century”

Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson “The New You”

Kim Walker-Smith “Brave Surrender”

Steven K. Smith “Ghosts of Belle Isle”

Ron Stallworth “Black Klansman”

P.L. Travers “Mary Poppins”

Dee Ann Turner “Bet On Talent”

Timothy B. Tyson “The Blood of Emmett Till”

Dan White Jr. “Love Over Fear”

Albert L. Winseman, D. Min, Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., and Curt Liesveld, M. Div. “Living Your Strengths”

J.R. Woodward “Creating a Missional Culture”

Ravi Zacharias “The Logic of God”


Walk It Out

0925190909As someone who writes and speaks a lot in my life, it’s not uncommon for me to find myself at an impasse. Some might call it writer’s block. Everything I speak I will generally write in some form before it’s spoken.

When I come to those places of blockage, those seemingly impenetrable walls, I’ve got to find a way through. Sometimes it’s moving to something else temporarily to clear my mind and then returning to it to get a fresh look. Sometimes it’s a complete disconnection from thinking to something mindless like watching a movie or playing a video game.

Most often, I find myself looking for a space of inspiration. When you encounter a block enough, you begin to find the places that help the most in working them out. For me, the two places where those blockages get worked out the easiest are when walking and when driving.

I won’t say that they’re worked out the fastest, because that rarely ever happens. Mental blocks, to me, are more like wrestling matches, grabbing, grunting, pushing, pulling, rolling, tumbling, and so much more. The thing about those kinds of wrestling matches is that they rarely leave you untouched. They generally leave their mark on you, whether good or bad, but you rarely remain the same throughout the wrestling match.

I think best when I’m moving.

There’s a field that I go to in a park that has some great, wide open spaces. It’s almost as if that space represents a picture of what I am hoping happens in my mind. I want things open, free, unrestricted, and walking out these blockages in a place that’s unconfined seems to be one of the greatest solutions.

I generally know where I am going, both mentally in my writing or speaking, and physically, when I am walking or driving. I can see where it is I need to get to, I can visualize it in my head, but this isn’t the world of Harry Potter, I can’t disapparate and reappear at my destination. I’ve got to go on the journey. I’ve got to take the walk or take the drive. I can’t speed it up or fast track my way through it

And at the end of it, I find myself at an arrival of sorts. It rarely looks how I thought it would or should. Most of the time, it takes far longer than I anticipated or wished that it would. Oftentimes, it’s much more obvious and I realize that the arrival to which I have come was there all along, lurking right there in front of me, waiting to be discovered had I looked at things more simply than I had.

But it’s a journey. Everything’s a journey. Journeys rarely leave us untouched or untainted. Even when we try our best to ignore them and their impact on us, they still have a way of touching us, twisting us, changing us.

I’ve been on a lot of journeys in my life, some which I would gladly choose again, others that I wouldn’t wish upon myself or anyone else, for that matter. As I survey the map that shows those journeys, I can safely say that they’ve all made me who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am who I am because of those journeys.

I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t waste our pain. I think that’s true. But I think that God really doesn’t waste anything. His timing isn’t always our timing. His efficiency isn’t always our efficiency. But at the end of the journey, whatever it is has accomplished whatever he set out for it to accomplish.

I Don’t Know Everything

texacoI constantly marvel at the fact that the more that I learn, the less I seem to know. I think it’s a direct result of opening myself up to new areas of knowledge which I am completely unfamiliar with and then the sudden realization that the world and universe are far greater, grander, and more expansive than my arrogant self ever imagined.

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome remains one of my all time favorite books in the Bible. In chapter 11 of that letter, Paul wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

While I have no qualms with trumpeting the things that I know and the talents I possess, I have been humbled over the years at the realization that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do. Despite the three degrees that I possess from higher learning institutions, I don’t really feel like I know much. Engineering and theology, two vastly different areas of study to the average onlooker, are far more interrelated than I once thought, but the study of them has not led me to somehow be more enlightened than the rest of the world.

The early learning experience in my life in which I had this realization was when I was working at the local Texaco station in high school (I guess there are still Texaco stations around, but I haven’t seen one in years). In my upper middle class town in southwest Connecticut, I may very well have been the only one of my peers who was spending his Saturdays pumping gas, washing windows, and operating a cash register at a gas station.

I remember being fifteen years old and living in my upper class world, showing up to work on the first day and thinking that I was so far above all the people with whom I was working. Needless to say, I got knocked off that horse pretty quickly.

It didn’t take long for me to begin to see that the world was far bigger and more diverse than my little bubble. I may have excelled in certain areas of academics, but all these guys I worked with far excelled me in the practical area of fixing things and knowing their way around car engines.

It was a very humbling thing for me to begin to realize this, and I was so grateful to have come to that understanding at fifteen rather than fifty. I began to look at these guys around me with a newfound respect, knowing that the was a complimentary nature to our relationships and to the world. I may have known a lot about one area that they were unfamiliar with, but their knowledge and experience far surpassed my own in other areas.

As I’ve lived a number of decades since then, I can honestly say that the lessons I learned at a little Texaco station in Darien, Connecticut have stuck with me since then and have proved to be invaluable for the winding road that followed.

I can’t say that I don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking I know more than I do, it happens more than I would like to admit, but I’m getting better at stepping back and seeing people’s knowledge beyond my own knowledge and understanding. One thing is for sure, when I’ve taken the time to step back and think through the level of knowledge that others have to offer above and beyond my own, I’ve come out the other side far better and more knowledgeable than I started.

Who’s Changing Here?

I’ve been learning an awful lot lately, mostly about myself. Sometimes the hardest things to learn are about yourself. Self-discovery is painful and hard, but usually results in the most glorious and rewarding transformations if we follow it through to the end. Kind of like emerging from a cocoon, open it too early and you’ve just got a really ugly and deformed caterpillar, but if you let it emerge on its own, the result will be a beautiful butterfly.

Well, I’m no butterfly, but I’d like to think that I’m still in the cocoon.

I am the youngest of two children, so it should be no surprise that the world of raising three children is foreign to me (the world of raising one child would be foreign to me too, if I’m honest). But I struggle most with raising the child who is most like me. Oil and water, that’s how my wife describes the two of us (me and my child, not me and her).

In the midst of this child-rearing that I’m trying to do, my self-discoveries are rarely comfortable. More often than not, they reveal more of my imperfections and inadequacies than I care to admit. I’ve always said that criticism is autobiographical, the things that drive us nuts about others are usually present in us if we take an honest look in the mirror. There is probably nowhere that is evident more so than in raising children.

As I struggled through a difficult evening and subsequent morning of trying to understand what the heck I’m doing as a father, I spent a significant amount of time soul-searching. What was wrong with me? Was I as big of a failure as I felt like? As my child made me feel?

As I was deep in these existential thoughts, I came to a stunning realization that brought me further down to earth, humbling me once again, and helping me realize just how important other people are to me in my own formation and growth.

You see, as one who has focused a lot on strengths over the past few years, I am very aware of what I am good at doing and what I am not good at doing. I see my gifts and strengths and look for ways that I can use them generatively, to help others grow. But the irony of it all is that the lightbulb that went off in my head made me realize that the reason why God brought me to most of the people in my life isn’t really because I’m supposed to help them grow, but because they are supposed to help me grow.

Yes, I know, I’m so vain, I probably think this post is about me (….if you don’t get it, Google Carly Simon and You’re So Vain). In my journey to understand my strengths and look for ways to help others, which I think it still fairly noble, I failed to remember the mutuality that is (or should be) involved in relationships.

As I processed through things in my own head, with my wife, with a friend, I came to the conclusion that the people who have been brought into my life and who can cause headaches and difficulty aren’t necessarily there so that I can help them grow, but to help me grow in all those uncomfortable and difficult ways that I would never grow into on my own.

Not rocket science, you’re probably thinking. I know, but it’s a significant lesson for me to grasp. I am a work in progress. Growth may be fast at times, but mostly it’s slow and iterative. I may not see the results as quickly as I would like to. I can’t plug into the Matrix and have instant gratification by plugging in the “Patience Module” or “Self-discipline Module.”

So, when I stop and look at all the changes that I think I can help to make in others, I really need to first consider all the changes that are probably going to happen in me, if I really and wholly enter into relationship with others. Not always fun, certainly not comfortable, but way more rewarding than I could imagine.


Painful Growth

This month marks fifteen years in full-time ministry as a pastor. Having successfully navigated a career in engineering before becoming a pastor, I can say that engineering was much easier for me. I believe that pastoring is a calling, which isn’t to say that engineering is any less of a career, but rather that if someone thinks that they could do anything else other than being a pastor, they should try that first.

In those fifteen years of being a pastor, I have experienced lots of difficult times. I lost my parents. I experienced a church split. I sat through ordination exams….twice. Throughout those difficult times, I have seen myself grow. Of course, I would much rather have grown through simpler means than the ones that grew me, but that wasn’t the plan.

In my work as a pastor, I have experienced seasons or experiences of pain. Unfortunately, these seasons or experiences aren’t unique. I would guess that if you were to talk with other pastors, most of them would agree that they have had these seasons or experiences as well.

These experiences are mostly unavoidable. Sure, some of them could be avoided for a period of time, but if you live for any length of time, you will most likely face them all at some point.

Based on my own experience, these have been among the most painful things that I have experienced in ministry:

The pain of tragic loss

When my best friend from college lost his six month old to cancer, it was among the most difficult things that I ever had to face, and it wasn’t my child. I tried my best to be a friend who loved and cared without trying to offer cliche advice.

When my friend called to ask me to do the funeral, I knew that it would be one of the most difficult things that I would ever have to do.

Trying to wrap your head around the pain and hurt in this world without throwing out trite answers is tough. Yes, sin has tainted the world, but that’s not the most helpful answer that a grieving family wants to or needs to hear at the height of their pain. Helping families cope with loss is one thing, tragic loss always seems to make it harder, at least in my opinion.

The pain of people leaving your church

This seems so small in comparison to the point above, but as I’ve talked with other pastors, I haven’t met one of them who has said that they enjoy it when people leave their church. The more personally connected you are with the people whom you shepherd, the harder and more painful it is when they choose to leave. While I have never been divorced, I can say that having friends walk away from my church is the closest thing that I’ve felt to a divorce.

No matter how long I’ve been a pastor, it always feels like a shot in the gut. People tell me not to take it personally, but it’s really hard. When you pour your life into something and someone walks away from it, it’s kind of hard not to take it personally.

The pain of seeing someone waste their potential

Leaders should have a knack for seeing potential in people. I’ve seen this in good coaches, teachers, supervisors, whoever. When that potential is identified, a person is made aware of that, and that person just shrugs it off, that’s painful to me. I see that as a person embracing mediocrity, not being willing to do the hard work of growing but instead being content to remain as they are.

I wish that I could say that this was limited to those who are young and foolish, but sadly, my experience has been that I’ve seen it mostly in people who should know better, people who have even grown up in the church. There’s not much worse than seeing someone who believes that they are a mature and growing disciple of Christ with thirty years of experience when in reality they are just an infant who has repeated the same year thirty times over.

The pain of having people say things about you that aren’t true

I can fully admit that I am stubborn. I can also admit that I have a hard time letting go of things. But one of the most difficult things that I have struggled to let go of is when someone says things about me that aren’t true. It’s not just the saying of untrue things, it’s also the unwillingness of people to actually hear or learn the truth.

This has mostly happened when someone had a preconceived notion about me or when someone has generated an opinion about me based on a very limited experience. No matter how hard I’ve tried, there is no convincing them that they should take a second look and get to know me. I become a justice monster then I feel that injustice is being done to me.

There may be a lot more painful things in ministry, but a decade and a half into this, these are the top four experiences that have been most painful to me.

Like I said, I’ve seen growth come out of all of these experiences, but it’s been painful growth, growth that I would rather have come any one of a hundred other ways.

How about you? What have been some of your most difficult growing experiences?

Love People, Solve Problems

As I’ve been on this church planting journey that I’ve been on, I’ve tried to surround myself with some quality mentors and leaders from whom I can learn. I’ve done enough life and ministry at this point that some of the arrogance that I once had in my twenties has been rubbed away and I’ve come to a place of acknowledgement of my own limitations and inadequacies. I have been incredibly blessed to have a few mentors around me who have spoken truth, life, and encouragement to me.

Last week, I met with one of those friends and mentors for lunch. I was updating him on where I am in the process and telling him some cool God stories that had taken place. God stories are the ones that you know could only happen by God’s power and hand, not by my own talents or abilities.

As we shared stories and caught up, he felt led to share some insights with me. He told me that he wanted to share something with me that had been helpful to him which he thought would also be helpful to me.

He said, “Remember, love people and solve problems.”

As the words escaped his mouth, he let them hang there for a minute. I’m sure that the look on my face hinted at the activity in my brain at that moment. I was trying to wrap my head around just what that meant.

When he had seen that I had struggled long enough to decipher his saying, he launched into his own experience of embodying those words. He said that he had at one time tried to solve people and love problems. But he realized that was fruitless and just led to frustration.

You see, ministry in general can be frustrating. Heck, any occupation that deals with people can be frustrating, so who am I kidding. If you deal with people, you will find yourself at times angry, frustrated, and wanting to give up. You will see them as problems to be solved rather than people to be loved. The achievers among us will want to fix them, to solve them, to help them reach their full potential and forget all about one of Jesus’ greatest commands: to love them.

I can be very task oriented. I can easily see a problem and move to fix it rather than trying to understand why it’s there. In my effort to move to solution, I forget that there is flesh and blood before me, someone to be loved and not fixed.

This friend and mentor knows me well enough by now to know that this same lesson that had proved some monumental and crucial to him was also something I needed to hear and embrace.

You see, focusing on loving someone and solving the problem pits me against the problem rather than the person. When we see the problem, even if that means there is conflict between us, we join together to do our best to find out how we solve the problem together. If we look at each other rather than the problem, all we will see is each other as the problem and then try to fix each other to accommodate our own preference or mindset.

It’s too easy to get caught up in looking past people to solutions and completely forgetting how valuable and important those people are. Loving people takes time and compassion. It takes empathy and care. Loving them and solving problems means investment. If we fail to love people and solve problems, then when we fail to solve a person, we simply discard them or walk away, excusing this abandonment as necessary because of the lack of growth and movement we saw.

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that somewhere along the way, someone loved us rather than trying to solve us. They took the time and invested in us, seeking a solution to a very real problem but seeking that solution through us rather than in us.

There is only one person who can solve and fix people, and that is God. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. The more that we try to do it, the more frustrated we will find ourselves becoming.

What will happen if you go into your day seeking to love people and solve problems. I know that in just the few short days since this truth was hammered home to me it has made a significant impact in me. It’s hard to rush towards solutions when you are simply trying to love someone.


Books Read in 2018

open-booksIn 2018, I read 66 books. That’s two less than 2017. Of the 66 books that I read, 29 were books that were reviewed for publishers (that’s about 44% of my total). 11 of the books were from my reading plan (about 17% of my total). My reading plan for 2018 contained 30 books total. Considering that I read the same number of books from my reading list in 2017 and 2018, I think lowering the number makes more sense for 2019 (I will post the Reading Plan for 2019 next week).

Out of all the books that I read in 2018, these were among the top. Four of five of them have reviews written on them by me, click on the titles to get to those reviews.

George Barna “The Power of Vision

Michael Frost “Incarnate”

Bryan Loritts “Insider Outsider

Grant Skeldon with Ryan Casey Waller “The Passion Generation

Lance Witt “High Impact Teams


Here are the other books read this year.

Michael Anthony “A Call For Courage”

Sarah Arthur “A Light So Lovely”

Jay Asher “Thirteen Reasons Why”

David and Jason Benham “Miracle In Shreveport”

Chad Bird “Your God Is Too Glorious”

Rosaria Butterfield “Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert”

Rosaria Butterfield “The Gospel Comes With a House Key”

Benjamin Campbell “Richmond’s Unhealed History”

D.A. Carson “The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus”

D.A. Carson “The Cross and Christian Ministry”

Steven Curtis Chapman “Between Heaven & the Real World”

Bruce Cockburn “Rumours of Glory”

Mike Cosper “Faith Among the Faithless”

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile “The Road Back To You”

Kevin DeYoung “The Hole in Our Holiness”

Nicole Doyley “One – Racial Unity in the Body of Christ”

Rachel Held Evans “Inspired”

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch “The Shaping of Things to Come”

Maria Furlough “Breaking the Fear Cycle”

Keith and Kristyn Getty “Sing!”

Patrice Gopo “All the Colors We Will See”

David Gushee “Still Christian”

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay “And”

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay “The Tangible Kingdom”

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay “The Tangible Kingdom Primer”

Colin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, eds. “12 Faithful Men”

Mo Isom “Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot”

Kathy Izard “The Hundred Story Home”

Caleb Kaltenbach “Messy Grace”

John Kotter “Our Iceberg Is Melting”

Patrick Lencioni “Getting Naked”

Joseph Loconte “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War”

Aubrey Malphurs “Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders”

Steve Martin “Born Standing Up”

Knox McCoy “The Wondering Years”

Rick McKinley “Faith For This Moment”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne “Songs of Zion”

Matt Mikalatos “Good News For A Change”

Bart Millard “I Can Only Imagine”

Albert Mohler, Jr. “The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down”

Henri J.M. Nouwen “A Spirituality of Fundraising”

Nancy R. Pearcey “Love Thy Body”

John M. Perkins “One Blood”

Eugene Peterson “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church Before the Watching World”

Francis Schaeffer “Escape From Reason”

Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas “Activate”

Jack Shitama “Anxious Church Anxious People”

Ed Stetzer “Planting Missional Churches”

Bryan Stevenson “Just Mercy”

Charles R. Swindoll “Elijah”

Joni Eareckson Tada “When Is It Right To Die?”

Hudson Taylor “The Autobiography of Hudson Taylor: Missionary to China”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Two Towers”

Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead “Holy Roar”

Tish Harrison Warren “Liturgy of the Ordinary”

Timothy Z. Witmer “The Shepherd Leader”

J.R. Woodward and Dan White, Jr. “The Church As Movement”

N.T. Wright “Paul – A Biography”

Justin Zoradi “Made For These Times”

Darlene Zschech “The Golden Thread”

The 2018 Book Plan

20180103_090939This is Year #5 for me doing an annual book plan. I’ve been trying to streamline the process year by year to see if I can get better. Last year, I read 69 books. My book plan had twenty-two books total of which I read eleven. So, 50% isn’t a horrible number, but I certainly want to do my best to move closer to achieving 100% read on my list.

I never used to be the guy who would read halfway through a book and then just leave it, but it’s been happening more and more. A number of the books on my list for this year are books that were started in 2017 or before which I never finished. Call it a Year of Jubilee, trying to play catch up a little bit.

I’ve tried to pepper my list with books that are strictly for enjoyment. Finally going to finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy of books for the first time in my life.

I’ve also got a number of books that are related to my position as a pastor. They run the gamut on topics as my role is fairly diverse. Just like baseball teams have utility players, I feel like I’m a utility pastor in many ways, playing roles across the board and filling in gaps as they need to be filled.

There are 30 books total on this list, a bolder number than the 22 books that were on last year’s list. But I have been intentionally setting aside books over the last few months, piling them up on my desk and keeping them in front of me as I’ve looked towards compiling this list.

As always, I am open to book suggestions. As I’ve posted my Books Read In 2017 post on social media, I have had people make recommendations which I hope to follow through on in 2018.

Here’s hoping for a more successful completion of my list in 2018!

Bill Bryson “A Walk in the Woods”

Steven Curtis Chapman “Between Heaven & the Real World”

G.K. Chesterton “Orthodoxy”

Bruce Cockburn “Rumours of Glory”

Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D. “Younger Next Year”

David Daniell “William Tyndale – A Biography”

Kevin DeYoung “The Hole in Our Holiness”

Shusaku Endo “Silence”

Zack Eswine “Preaching to a Post-Everything World”

Michael Frost “Incarnate”

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch “The Shaping of Things to Come”

Nicky Gumble “Alpha – Questions of Life”

Caleb Kaltenbach “Messy Grace”

Tim Keller “Center Church”

Erik Larson “The Devil in the White City”

Joseph Loconte “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War”

Barack Obama “The Audacity of Hope”

Stacy Perman “In-N-Out Burger”

Eugene Peterson “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”

John Piper “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”

Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin “Growing Young”

Soong-Chan Rah “The Next Evangelicalism”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church Before the Watching World”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church at the End of the 20th Century”

James K.A. Smith “You Are What You Love”

Paul Tillich “Dynamics of Faith”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Two Towers”

J.R.R. Tokien “Return of the King”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Tolkien Reader”

Tish Harrison Warren “Liturgy of the Ordinary”