What are you reading?

Posted: September 16, 2011 by efenster in Ideas, Resources

What are you reading these days?  One attribute of a leader is that they’re constantly learning, and I find reading is one way I can do that.  As someone who is constantly around leaders–mostly UM pastors–I have a constant stream of excellent suggestions for helpful books.

Thanks to the fact that I’m in my car a lot traveling to visit churches and pastors, and thanks to a plethera of audio books and a Kindle e-book that can read to me as a drive, I have been able to read a lot of books.  In fact, being the somewhat compulsive person that I am, I keep track in a log of everything I read.  So far this year (2011), I’ve read 28 books, about half of them are non-work related.  Of those that relate to my work in the area of Church Development, here’s what I’ve read this year so far…

American Saint:  Francis Asbury and the Methodists, by John Wigger.  I really knew very little about our early history.  Wow!  We’re dealing with a lot of the same tensions today that Asbury and the early Methodists were dealing with.  Did you know that Francis Asbury was the most recognized American in our country during his lifetime, more recognized that our U.S. Presidents!

American Grace:  How Religion Divides and Unites Us, by Robert Putnam and David Campbell.  One of the best books to give us a snapshot of the American religious scene.  Did you know that whether a person prays at meals or not is the best indicator of their level of discipleship?  Did you know that attendance in worship peaked around 1980 in the U.S.?  The evangelical movement has been waning since around 1990?  Fascinating stuff!

Simple Church, by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.  My second time through.  I missed a lot the first time.  Excellent book!

Good to Great, by Jim Collins.  I had read his Built to Last and heard the Bishop and Cabinet were reading this more recent Collins’ book.  Some very practical and profoundly helpful concepts for any leader!

The Five Dysfunctions of  a Team, Patrick Lencioni.  An easy read that gets at what it takes to have an effective team.

When the Well Runs Dry, by Thomas H. Green.  Want to take your prayer life deeper.  Wow!  Read this.  The best book I’ve read recently on my personal spirituality.  Don’t swim but float in God’s river of life! 

Taking Your Church to the Next Level, by Gary McIntosh.  Another good book from Gary that gives a very practical understanding of what a church must do in order to be more effective–act like a church that’s one-level larger.

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  As mission chair of my local church, I say this is a must read for any church seeking to do missions in a healthy way.  Gold!

Assaulting the Gates:  Aiming All God’s People at the Mission Field, by Paul D. Borden.  This book lays out in detail the Fruitful Congregation Journey that our conference is using to help churches become more vital and effective at carrying out our mission.

Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church:  Mandate, Commitments, and Practices of a Diverse Congregation, by Mark DeYmaz.  DeYmaz is the founding pastor of the Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, a highly diverse church.  Helpful, but I’m still looking for a book about multi-ethnic churches that thrive in a community that’s not connected with a military base or college campus.

The Forgotten Ways, by Alan Hirsch.  I’ve been with Hirsch several times the past couple years.  He’s onto something very important regarding the church’s future.  It still isn’t clear what that something will end up looking like.  Read this book and start thinking about what how we can pass on the faith to new generations in a post-modern, post-Christian society.  It’s both scary and exciting!  God give us courage and boldness and guidance!

Renovate or Die:  Ten Ways to Focus Your Church on Mission, by Bob Farr.   This book is written by the person from the Missouri Conference who has been helping our church development team launch the Fruitful Congregation Journey.  Farr’s book is excellent–it received a 3 on my five-point scale (o = waste of time to 4 = one of the best books in the world).  Great for any congregation to read!

Confronting the Controversies, by Adam Hamilton.  One of our pastors encouraged me to read this as I head to the General Conference this coming spring.  It helped me think about some very difficult issues that we deal with in the church, including homosexuality.  (Thanks, Bob!)

Winning on Purpose:  How to Organize Congregations to Succeed in Their Mission, by John E. Kaiser.  This is the best book I’ve ever read on healthy church structure and organization and all of it can be applied in a United Methodist church!  Typically we have the wrong structure, or we  use the structure we have incorrectly.  This can be your church’s handbook!   It will also help your church hold its leaders accountable in a very healthy way and as a result you’ll see more results!  Read it!  Now!

Well, that’s the list so far in 2011.  What have you been reading?  I always keep a list of books I want to read next, so give me your suggestion!  — Ed Fenstermacher

  1. I just finished reading Phillip Gulley’s If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus. I would be interested in discussing that, online or face-to-face, with anyone else who has read it. Blessings, Karen Altergott

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