Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Reading and Beyond

Here is a list of the books I read from cover to cover in 2010. There were a number of other books started and not finished. I finished #50 today driving back from Arkansas (well, technically, Sarah was driving while I was reading).
  1. Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
  2. The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington
  3. Words from the Fire by R. Albert Mohler
  4. Axiom by Bill Hybels
  5. Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy
  6. Twelve Challenges Churches Face by Mark Dever
  7. God's Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts
  8. Why we Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
  9. The Most Loving Place in Town by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges
  10. Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris
  11. The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn
  12. The Basis of Unity by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  13. Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World edited by C.J. Mahaney
  14. A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper
  15. The Power of Words and the Wonder of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor
  16. Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft
  17. Christ's Words from the Cross by Charles H. Spurgeon
  18. Raised with Christ by Adrian Warnock
  19. What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace by Richard D. Phillips
  20. Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers by Graham A. Cole
  21. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper
  22. Five Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin
  23. What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
  24. This Little Church Had None by Gary Gilley with Jay Wegter
  25. C.H. Spurgeon on Spiritual Leadership by Steve Miller
  26. Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  27. Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus by D.A. Carson
  28. Simplify Your Spiritual Life by Donald Whitney
  29. Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger
  30. Love That Lasts by Gary and Betsy Ricucci
  31. Fear Not! Death and the Afterlife from a Christian Perspective by Ligon Duncan
  32. The Living Church by John Stott
  33. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
  34. Church Planting is for Wimps by Mike McKinley
  35. From the Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days by Don Carson
  36. Tap: Defeating the Sins that Defeat You by Yancey Arrington
  37. The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson
  38. Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles
  39. Towards Spiritual Maturity by William Still
  40. Radical by David Platt
  41. Think by John Piper
  42. Teach them to Pray by Paul Tautges
  43. Christless Christianity by Michael Horton
  44. A Not-So-Silent Night by Verlyn Verbrugge
  45. My Soul Magnifies the Lord by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  46. Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer
  47. Holy Subversion by Trevin Wax
  48. When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul
  49. Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie
  50. The Radical Disciple by John Stott
I'm looking forward to the books I'm going to read in 2011. I've started The Truth War by John MacArthur tonight. I need to read The Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer & The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne for local book reading clubs in January. And I will be reading and reviewing Randy Alcorn's If God Is Good. January is going to be a busy book month!

Taking the lead from my friend Josh King, I've committed to reading a dozen or so books by Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs in 2011.

Happy New Year and happy reading!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top 5(ish) Books I Read in 2010

Honorable Mention: Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy
This memoir from my favorite (former) NFL coach is insightful and touching. Tony exemplifies all that is good in professional athletics. May his tribe increase.

5a. Christless Christianity by Michael Horton
Do you ever look around at Evangelicalism and think something is wrong? So does Horton. And he shows us what it is... We, like the Laodicean Church of Revelation 3, have forgotten Jesus and left him out in the cold. This book is a strong critique that the church in American desperately needs to hear.

5b. Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer
Like Horton's book, Spencer sees a number of problems in contemporary evangelicalism. He calls us back to a "Jesus-shaped spirituality." In other words, just don't talk about Jesus, actually walk with Jesus and know him and love him.

5c. Why we Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
Are there problems in the church? Yes. But like DeYoung and Kluck, I love the church. Horton and Spencer alone may make you cynical toward the church. DeYoung and Kluck help us see the good and all three together give us a good perspective of what church should be.

4. Christ's Words from the Cross by Charles Spurgeon
This little book complies a sermon or writing on each of Christ's seven statements uttered from the cross. I've read this little book several times in the last 15 years and each time its truths become even more precious to me.

3. Church Planting is for Wimps by Mike McKinley
This little book is powerful. It is encouraging and instructive, hopeful and realistic. Best of all, it it rooted in the Gospel and exemplifies true pastoral shepherding.

2. Radical by David Platt
This book will stir your heart for discipleship and missions on every level. Warning: it will kick you in the gut... but in a good way.

1. Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
This is the first book I read in 2010, and what a book to start the year off with. Keller exposes all sorts of idols and calls us to faithfulness to the Lord. A must read!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

I was in seminary when I first read Michael Spencer's blog Back in the day, I was working through some major theological truths that were rocking my world. Theology of Worship with Dr. Holmes was challenging everything I had previously thought about church, worship, ministry, and even the doctrine of salvation itself.

Doing some research for that class on organizing and leading a worship service, Google took me to the IMonk's essay on Christless preaching. This essay has shaped my preaching and teaching ministry since that time. I am now and always grateful for it.

In April of this year, Michael died. But before the cancer destroyed his body, Michael wrote Mere Churchianity. What a way to end one's pilgrimage.

In his later years, Michael became disenchanted with what what he called "church-shaped spirituality" or "churchianity." This is the false form of Christianity that pervades much of evangelicalism today. Instead, he called us back to a "Jesus-shaped spirituality." For all his flaws and struggles, Michael consistently looked to and pointed others toward Jesus. That is what makes this a very good book.

I am in the group Michael is criticizing. I am a pastor in an evangelical, (informally) institutional, Baptist church. Much in my life and ministry has distracted people away from Jesus. My work in youth ministry often replaced Jesus with some cool fad. I was (and in many ways still am) enamored with doctrinal correctness and stiff theologizing. And I can contribute to the problem.

But Michael urges me to keep Jesus at the center, in my life and in my ministry. While I may not agree with Michael's solutions, or even his diagnoses of the problems, I do agree that the answer is always Jesus kept front and center. Or, to say it better, Jesus followed and loved supremely.

I urge church leaders to read Mere Churchianity as a diagnostic tool. Is your church and ministry shaped by Jesus, or by the institution of your church? Michael urges me, and I hope you, to make it all about Jesus in a real way.

Some favorite quotes from the book:

Jesus-shaped discipleship produces people whose lives, habits, commitments, and words resemble Jesus more than the cultural ideals of comfort, convenience, and economic prosperity. (p. 15)

When you view evangelicalism from a distance, it becomes clear that almost all the problems can be traced back to evangelicalism's unquestioned commitment to be successful and relevant. (p. 25)

Wrong ideas about God are, themselves, false gods. They are idols just as much as a graven image. (p. 34)

When I first began to think about Jesus-shaped spirituality, I would ask this door opening question: If I spent three years with Jesus, how would I feel about...? The question is appropriate and revealing, no matter what the subject or issue happens to be. How would Jesus shape me in this area if he deeply influenced my thinking and living? (p. 42)

You can't have a Christian experience, in a church or outside one, without Jesus. (p. 49)

It's pointless to be cool, because trying to make Jesus sexy is a waste of time. (p. 79)

Faith is a lack of contentment with what I am, but a sense of satisfaction with what God has given me of himself in Jesus. The mark of saving faith is not just resting passively in the promises of the gospel (though that is exactly what justification does), but it's an ongoing war with the reality of my condition. (p. 146)

...sanctification consists, in large measure, in seeing our sin and acknowledging how deeply and extensively it has marred us. (p. 149)