Gospel Centered Family

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Jared's Top 10 Reads of 2014

Jared KennedyComment

Here is a list of my top 10 favorite books I’ve read this past year. Selecting 10 isn't too hard for me because I didn't get much further than that, but these are good ones. Pick them up yourself. Here they are in no particular order.

1. The Walk: The Life-Changing Journey of Two Friends by Michael CardThis is a short, quick read, but it's my top choice of 2014. Card recounts his friendship and journey of personal discipleship with mentor Bill Lane from the time they met until Lane's death. Card was Lane's student at Western Kentucky University. An added bonus for me was how much of this book takes place on the I-65 corridor.

"When God gives a gift, He wraps it in a person."

2. On Guard: Protecting and Responding to Child Abuse at Church by Deepak Reju. I first heard Deepak present on this topic in 2009. Our team has since used much of that material to help develop child protection policies for Sojourn. I have to agree with Jeff that this needed book is one of the top of 2014. Every church leader should study Deepak's eleven strategies and adopt them.

"In addition to teaching children, Christians also have a fundamental responsibility to protect them. We learn this... from God, who throughout the Bible has a special burden for the young, weak, and oppressed in society."

3. Transforming Leadership by James MacGregor Burns. Since 1978, leadership has been emerging as a unique discipline in the social sciences.  Burns' transforming / empowering leadership paradigm was largely responsible. I'm daily convicted about being a transforming as opposed to a transactional leader. Burns has been a really helpful tutor.

"Empowering leaders not only take the initiative in engaging with followers, as all leaders must do. They also engage creatively

4. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. Berry's novel afforded me the opportunity to reflect on aging, death, and a sense of place. I was brought up with more of a No Abiding City kind of theology. Berry helps me balance that with a strong confidence that place matters. It's a This Is My Father's World kind of theology from this mentor on life in Kentucky.

"A lifetime's knowledge shimmers on the face of the land in the mind of a person who knows."

5. Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids by Jack Klumpenhower. Klumpenhower gives teachers an inspiring and practical framework for preparing Bible lessons, classroom environments, and family ministry where Jesus is the focus. This is a primer on preparing gospel-centered lessons. Since reading this book, one interpretive idea that has stuck with me is identifying the people in the story who receive God's redemptive work and then asking: 

“How does God do the same for us-only better-in Jesus?”

6. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves. Reeves has given us a gift. A winsome reflection on the basic Christian life lived in light of the Trinity. The love we are commanded to show to others flows from the inter-Trinitarian love the persons of the Godhead have for one another. We can live in this love, because God has given us himself.

"The life that the Spirit gives is not some abstract thing. In fact, it is not primarily some thing that he gives at all. The Spirit gives us his very self, that we might know and enjoy him and so enjoy his fellowship with the Father and Son."

7. Dear White America: A Letter to a New Minority by Tim Wise. Tim's voice and the narrative he preaches is familiar to many of the oppressed, people of color in our country. But it's a new message for me. I'm listening and learning.

"The inequities faced by people of color and the way we have long disregarded those inequities or assumed they weren't our problem have led us directly to this moment. In other words, our pain and their pain are connected, far more than many of us may believe." 

8. PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace. I learned a ton from hanging out with Daniel and Timothy as they crafted this book, and I'm excited about being a part of future PROOF projects (hint, hint). This book is an inspiring exposition of the doctrines of grace for future generations by two faithful friends.

"Jesus himself is the proof of grace. What our perseverance provides is evidence that Jesus is present in our faith, working his works through us."

9.  Organizational Leadership: Foundations and Practices for Christians edited by Jack Burns, John R. Shoup, and Donald C. Simmons, Jr. This is a practical theology of leadership. The book focuses on five essential leadership challenges and practices—communication, negotiation, decision-making, financial stewardship, and personal development. I'm particularly convicted by Rick Langer's critique of an over-emphasis on efficiency. Here is a great quote from one of his chapter contributions:

"It is provocative to consider if the world would be a better place if human leadership were at times less efficient in producing and consuming goods." 

10. The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed The World. This was my biography for 2014. It was fascinating to me that along with their line of brewers, the Guinness family also included a line of bankers and a line of pastors and missionaries--many of whom were tee-totaling Plymouth Brethren. Mansfield gives one of the best explanations I've read of both modern beer-making's Christian origins and the Christian temperance movement. I love this Harry Grattan Guinness quote from the conclusion: 

"Gentlemen, find out the will of God for your day and generation, and then, as quickly as possible, get into line."

Did you enjoy any of these books as well? Any others you would add to my list? Let me know in the comments below.