Bishop G’s Book Reviews: July – September, 2013

The latest reading list from Bishop Goodpaster, reflecting on books read during July – September, 2013, with brief comments.

When Moses Meets Aaron: Staffing and Supervision in Large Congregations by Gil Rendle and Susan Beaumont

Comment: Primarily written, as the title suggests, for large membership churches, this very helpful for anyone or any church striving to position itself for fruitful, effective ministry in the twenty-first century. Leading complex organizations, including churches, requires unique skills and abilities. Rendle and Beaumont provide excellent resources to help us navigate these circumstances. The District Superintendents and I have been reading and reflecting on the lessons contained here as we continue to serve all the churches of Western North Carolina.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Comment: The subtitle gives a hint about the thesis: “how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.” Brown has written a thoroughly researched and highly practical book for all who are called or sent to lead in this uncertain time. Leaders, she argues, do not have a choice in these matters, but are, instead, challenged to be fully engaged. We must “show up and let ourselves be seen.” In itself, that is a major step towarddaring greatly. This is a very insightful book, and one that is worth an investment of time and reflection.

Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat

Comment: Here is a very important book! Douthat, a columnist for The New York Times, gives us a survey of that last six decades and a perspective of how believers and churches have evolved to the current reality. This book, which has won awards from both Christianity Today and The Christian Century, is an insightful analysis of the way churches have either accommodated or resisted the culture in which we live. Either way has created a crisis that now calls upon us to find a new way for the renewal of Christianity. It is a thoughtful and well researched book, with opinions and conclusions that should cause all of us to think deeply, seriously, and theologically about current reality and the future.

Faith Formation 4.0 by Julie Anne Lytle

Comment: In case you have missed it, we have entered an amazing age of information, internet, and never-ending connections through social media. The way we learn and interact with each other, with our wider world, and with the information has also changed dramatically. This is a very helpful, insightful book that challenges us to think about discipleship and how we experience the Good News in this digital age. There are some very good ideas on how to navigate this new world, to deepen our faith relationship, and to be formed in our discipleship.

Innovative Planning: Your Church in 4-D by Bud Wrenn

Comment: This is a very practical book, designed to help churches carefully and prayerfully plan for the future. Wrenn introduces us to the idea of being an “innovative” church, rather than some of the other categories currently in use. In order to move on that path, churches must plan in four dimensions: visionary, missional, strategic, and tactical. As we look to the next several years, this can be a guide that should benefit churches of all sizes.

The Go-To Church by Bryan Collier

Comment: Here is a brief look at an amazing church that was planted in 1998, and has grown to have multiple sites. There are some good, practical suggestions for churches that are considering different ways of expanding and extending the mission of Christ in the community. The ideas that Bryan shares with us grow out of the experiences (both those that worked and those that did not) of the Orchard: A United Methodist Congregation in Tupelo, MS.

Should We Change our Game Plan? By George Hunter III

Comment: Dr. Hunter has written a brief overview of the many ways in which the world and our society and culture have changed around us. And, in light of those changes, he presents the challenge of becoming a church (and a movement) that is both missional and strategic. He invites us to think prayerfully, carefully, and deeply about our call to follow and serve Christ in the twenty-first century, with insights that, if practiced, will make a significant difference for us, individually and collectively, and for our world. This is a helpful resource for churches and leaders to study together.

Leadership Excellence by Pat Williams

Comment: After reading numerous books on leadership, I find that they all start running together; principles, guidelines, practices, and suggestions begin to sound alike, and such is the case here. Pat Williams is the senior vice-president of the Orlando Magic professional basketball team and a motivational speaker. He includes some good “leadership” stories, mostly from the realm of sports and politics. According to Williams, the “seven sides of leadership” are vision, communication, people skills, character, competence, boldness, and a serving heart.

Five Stones: Conquering your Giants by Shane Stanford and Brad Martin

Comment: Some will remember that Shane preached at our Annual Conference a few years ago. I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book, and offer an endorsement. Here is what I wrote: “Having personally known and been inspired by Shane Stanford for twenty years, I am familiar with some of the giants he has faced in his life and ministry. With keen insights, personal experiences, and spiritual depth, he and Brad Martin have crafted a helpful resource for all of us. Building on basic principles through devotional time and discipline, this book will be a valuable guide for facing and defeating the ‘giants’ of our lives.”

Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe by Chris DeRose

Comment: A fascinating story of two men who both became President. James Madison, the primary author of the U. S. Constitution and fourth president, and James Monroe, the fifth President. In 1789, years before their respective presidencies, the two men faced each other in an election for a seat in the first Congress of the United States. (Madison won) This book, named as one of the best political books of 2011, is an account of the events in the lives of the two men leading up to that campaign and election. It was an amazing period of our history and, according to DeRose, it was an “election that saved a nation.”

A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown

Comment: There have been many books written about C. S. Lewis, and the story of his life is well-known to many people. This particular book traces his life journey through the lens of faith and the way that Lewis not only came to affirm his faith, but the way it can be seen in his writing. His books and stories interweave his own story with the wonderful characters and themes. An inspiring approach!