This time last year I recommended 10 books that I’d found inspiring over the previous year. The feedback received was very positive so as a new year beckons I thought I’d so it again for 2013. As I look out on the snow of Wisconsin, preparing to celebrate the New Year, here are some books that have been helpful to me over the past year.
1) The Bible
Yes. I know it was my No.1 last year and is again. And I realise it’s a somewhat predictable choice for a church leader but truly, the Bible is brilliant. It really is the Book of books. So find a way to read it regularly. Prayerfully. If you do that I guarantee it will change your life. And if you don’t know where to start in the bible, begin with one of the gospels – one of the four accounts of the life of Jesus.
2) John-Paul Flintoff’s ‘How to Change the World’
Part of the School of Life series, Flintoff encourages us to do lots of small things that will make a big difference in the world. Flintoff is not a follower of Jesus or any other religion. He simply wants to see the world improved. Filled with ideas and examples, this is a very practical book that every Christian should read because it describes some of things that Christ-followers should be doing if they really do what to change the world.
3) Anything by Francis Chan
I’ve found Chan’s books and videos very helpful this year. He’s committed to doing the basics well and writes as a bible teacher wanting to communicate the simple truths of the bible. I’m presently in the middle of his book on discipleship, called Multiply which I thoroughly recommend. At the end of each chapter you can watch a short video online to help clarify the content. Great stuff!
4) Richard Branson’s ‘Like a Virgin – Things they didn’t Teach you at Business School’
I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but let’s face it, Branson is one of Britain’s foremost business icons who knows how to get people’s attention, especially young people. Many UK men in their 50s would love to be him. There’s great wisdom here, in this Branson’s latest book. It contains many blog-length (so short) chapters answering questions on a broad range of issues. If you’ve never read anything by Richard Branson before read this as by the end you’ll feel like you really know him.
5) Heidi & Rolland Baker’s ‘Learning to Love’
Like last year, I recommend anything by the Bakers. I read ‘Learning to Love’ in the summer and found it to be another great book – telling more of their story as they work with some of the poorest people on the planet. This book will make you smile, cry and want to do bold and brave things for Jesus!
6) Ed Stetzer & Warren Bird’s ‘Viral Churches’
This is an fantastic book for church leaders who want to take seriously the biblical principle of multiplication. Challenging and insightful, the authors believe God wants to multiply disciples, who multiply churches causing a movement that brings transformation. This book is published as part of the useful Leadership Network series – a great US resource for leaders who are committed to growing missional communities in this generation.
7) Pete Grieg & Andy Freeman’s ‘Punk Monk’
This book has been out for a while now but I read it for the first time earlier this year. It tells the inspiring story of how the 24-7 Prayer Movement got going and is a must-read for anyone praying for individual, local or regional transformation.
8) ‘The Simple Things’ magazine
There are all sorts of books, magazines and articles out there that encourage us to simplify our lives. This is a new magazine (begun in 2012) that’s beautifully produced and is a pleasure to read. I suspect it’s target audiences more women than men, but as a man I nevertheless have found it full of insight and creative ideas encouraging me to slow down and appreciate the simple things of life. As well as being available as a magazine you can down-load individual editions to your iPad or kindle. Enjoy!
9) Nicky Cruz’ ‘The Devil Has no Mother’
Nicky Cruz (of The Cross & the Switchblade and Run Baby Run fame) is now a grandfather. This is his latest book, all about the devil. There are more scholarly and erudite books available on this subject, but I found this book to be helpful, with some interesting personal stories intermixed with bible teaching.
10) My blogs
I hesitate to put this in – even at No.10 – as it’s not really my style to blow my own trumpet. But I’ve included it more for the feedback I’ve had from so many people. I’m constantly surprised by people telling me how they’ve been encouraged by both this blog, and the Leadership Blog. As there’s now a reasonable archive of material building up, I’ve found it useful myself at times to re-read some of my blogs and the stories of God at work – as I easily forget what The Lord has been doing. It aids my poor memory, helping me ‘not to forget what the Lord has done’ (Deut 8:18; Ps 103:2).
So, there we go. Some suggestions for 2013. Do let me me know what you think. And do forward this blog to others if you’ve found it helpful. Happy New Year!