It was Eric Hoffer who said, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” I’m in the process of compiling some of the best resources in the areas of missional theology, missional leadership, organizational dynamics and recommended reading for apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. I’m staring with the 10 epic books that changed the way I think, love and live. I will add to my list in the coming weeks and months so drop back by this page.
10 Epic Books
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Lesslie Newbigin
Newbigin is one of my favorite authors and this book represents some of his best thinking on topics ranging from epistemology (the theory of knowing), revelation, history, Christ, mission, election, contextualization and how we are to relate to people of other faiths. While I could easily put a number of Newbigin’s books on this list, I don’t. But you will see his works show up on some of my future lists. You will have to work hard through the first chapters, but keep reading, for he lays an important foundation for how to approach knowing and believing before he gets real readable in areas we need to think deeply about.
New Testament and Mission, Johannes Nissen
Nissen takes us on a journey through the New Testament demonstrating that God does not just have one model for mission, but several, which “form a multicolored mosaic of complementary and mutually enriching as well as mutually challenging frames of reference.” Matthew sees mission as disciple making; Mark as crossing boundaries; Luke as jubilee; and John as incarnation. He continues through the rest of the N.T. contending for freedom in our approach to mission, based on context, giving us the crucial reminder that every methodology illustrates or betrays the Gospel we announce.
Jesus and the Victory of God, N.T. Wright
N.T. Wright is one of the most brilliant theologians of our day. So many of his works have shaped my thinking, life and ministry. His work on understanding Jesus from a Jewish perspective has reshaped our current landscape. One cannot write about Jesus without referring to his epic works. Wright gets heat from both “conservatives” and “liberals” much like Jesus would if he lived in our day. He is a gifted teacher who helps us understand the aims and beliefs of Jesus in a way that helps us not only see Jesus clearer but understand the works of Paul from new angles.
Jesus and Community, Gerhard Lohfink
Lohfink makes a convincing case that in a day riddled with individualism, it has always been God’s intention to work through a visible, tangible, concrete community that lives as a contrast-society in the world, for the sake of the world. The good news is not simply pietistic sayings designed for personal contemplation. Rather, Jesus’ intention was to create a new society that, through their life and practices, demonstrate “the arrival of the new world of God in Christ” where the Spirit of God “dismantles national and social barriers, group interests, castes systems and domination of one sex over the other.”
The Original Revolution, John Howard Yoder
Some consider peacemaking a side issue, “we can take it or leave it.” Yoder in this masterful work helps us to recognize that the way of peace is an integral part of the gospel. If we trust in the One who is the way, the truth and the life, then we are called to join a political revolution that defies the established order of this world, and imitates the Prince of Peace. Having faith in Christ creates a new quality of life, a distinct community, a new society.
Desiring the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith
In this transformative book James K. A. Smith reminds us that we are what we love more than what we think or believe. He helps us to realize that if we hope to become the people God intended, then we need to engage in thick embodied identity-forming practices that grab our hearts through our imagination and thereby reshape our desires for God and his kingdom.
Missional Church, Darrell L. Guder
While most of our word documents tell want to correct the spelling of missional, this book has made the words missional church a daily household word for practitioners. While Darrell Guder is both editor and contributor to this volume, some of the best missiologist contributed to this epic work, including Lois Barrett, Inagrace T. Dietterich, George Hunsberger, Alan J. Roxburgh and Craig Van Gelder. This book builds upon the work of Newbigin, Bosch and others and helps us recover a missionary posture here in North America.
The Moral Vision of the New Testament, Richard B. Hays
This book will help you to form a healthy approach to hermeneutics (the art and science of interpreting the scripture) and for that reason it make my list. Hays not only gives us an amazing walk through the New Testament, but helps us to interpret the text through three focal images – the community, cross and new creation. He helps us to realize that our choice of primary passages shapes our interpretive lens and brings it home by testing out his hermeneutical strategy as it relates to difficult issues of our day.
Henri Nouwen: A Spirituality of Imperfection, Wil Hernandez
As a fan of Henri Nouwen, Wil sums up his heart in an meaningful way. He shows us that for Nouwen, spirituality is embodied in an inward, outward and upward journey. The inward journey (integration of psychology and spirituality) involves the path to increasing wholeness through brokenness and woundedness. The outward journey (integration of ministry and spirituality) is unlocked and fruitful through powerlessness and weakness. And the upward journey (theology and spirituality) toward progressive holiness and union with God is paved with struggle and suffering.
Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink
While I don’t agree with all that Wink writes, his trilogy on “the powers that be” rocked my world in a good way. Wink brought the spiritual realities of the principalities and powers to life like no author has. One cannot write on this topic without addressing this watershed trilogy, of which this book is the third. Revelation came to life for me and I recognized the power(s) of the systems of this world. Understanding the the powers were created by Christ, that they have fallen and that they will be redeemed is crucial if we are to have hope in the redemption of all things.