Bishop G’s Book Reviews: Oct. 2013 – Jan. 2014

Recent books read (October 2013 through January 2014)

Stations of the Heart: Parting with a Son by Richard Lischer

Comment: A powerful, inspirational book. A must read!

Thank God, It’s Thursday by William Willimon

Comment: Bishop Willimon takes us through the events of what we traditionally know as Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), and the table talk of Jesus with the disciples at the Last Supper. His reflections on the story as recorded in John’s Gospel open the door for new insights and understandings of that particular night. This is a very good resource as churches and clergy plan for the season of Lent, or of Holy Week, or, specifically, for Thursday of that week.


Calvin vs Wesley: Bringing Belief in Line with Practice by Don Thorsen

Comment: I have said on many occasions and in several settings that it is critically important for us to be theologically clear about which “John” we are leaning on – Calvin or Wesley. There are significant differences in their thinking and in how their theology informs leadership and the identity of the church. Thorsen has written an extremely valuable book that highlights points of agreement, and draws distinctions in their thought. I highly recommend this book.


The Wesleyan Way: A Faith that Matters by Scott J. Jones

Comment: I had a chance to review this 8-session study for churches, and highly recommend it as a short-term, small group resource. Bishop Jones presents in this guide, a very accessible guide as we seek to be faithful to our Wesleyan heritage and theology.


The Surprise Factor by Kim Shockley and Paul Nixon

Comment: The subtitle of the book gives a clue about the theme: “Gospel strategies for changing the game at your church.” Kim (whose husband, Gary, is now on our Conference Staff) and Paul have both been consultants and coaches for a number of years with clergy and churches. What they have learned is offered here in a dialog format. They explore a number of ideas, strategies, and engagements that will upset the status quo and transform both leaders and churches in order to thrive in this present age. Great ideas here!


The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni

Comment: For those familiar with Lencioni’s writings, this book will not come as a surprise – there is a story/fable presented as a way of introducing three “signs” of job misery. And, more importantly, how leaders can and must address these issues in order to move forward toward a common, shared vision. Insightful and helpful.


David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Comment: I have come to appreciate Gladwell’s writings, and this latest book from him is no exception. In this collection of stories, research, and applications, Gladwell highlights the ways that our perceived “disadvantages” may not be so, and that, like the Old Testament story of David and Goliath, we actually do have the abilities and resources to overcome any obstacle that may present itself.


Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts by John Dominic Crossan & Jonathan Reed

Comment: In preparation for my January time in the Holy Land with several groups of clergy, I spent some time reading this book. It combines both archeology and Biblical reflection to help us continue to understand the setting, the time, the land, and the lives of the people in the time of Jesus. Great pictures and drawings help it come alive.


An Illustrated Guide to the Holy Land by Lamontte M. Luker

Comment: Just as I was preparing for my recent trip, I had the chance to read an advanced copy of this little guide, and offer an endorsement. Taking advantage of the latest discoveries and theories, and including many full color pictures, Luker has provided a very handy resource for those who make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Even if you have not been, and even if you never go, this little book helps bring it alive.


The Mystic Way of Evangelism by Elaine Heath

Comment: After reading Heath’s book, Longing for Spring, and after being inspired by her teaching at Annual Conference last year, I finally got around to reading this earlier book. Glad I did! With all of the seminars and “how-to” workshops available to us, I think she has identified a key issue: “there is a striking absence in most contemporary discussions of evangelism of the wisdom of the great spiritual giants…to shape and lead our understanding of the theory and practice of evangelism.” So, she explores lessons from St. Francis, Julian of Norwich, John Wesley and Phoebe Palmer, to name a few. There is much here to inform our commitment to be evangelists in the 21st century.


Breaking Through the Stained Glass Ceiling by HiRho Y. Park and Susan Willhauck

Comment: This book from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry takes a look at women clergy of our UMC who participated in the “Lead Women Pastors” project. It is a compilation of chapters devoted to various aspects of clergy leadership, and the way they are lived out by some of the women serving across the denomination. A valuable resource of information for all of us!


And a few novels through the holidays!
Plainsong; Eventide; and Benediction by Kent Haruf

Comment: Three novels about a small Colorado town, and the various characters whose lives intertwine over time. Delightful reading.


Innocence by Dean Koontz

Comment: Koontz is a best-selling author of numerous books, but this was the first of his that I have read. I could not put it down! Theological themes and spiritual matters and radical hospitality all appear in these pages.