Leaders are readers. Readers are leaders.
For the past 15 years I have made a habit of setting aside one week every six months devoted to reading. I gather recommendations from friends, colleagues, news articles, conferences, and voices I respect in various fields of interest. Those recommendations go on my Trello board entitled “Reading and Research.” During a typical reading week I’ll survey the lists, and move a handful of books from “Recommended” to “READING.”
Here are the books I am reading now or planning to read in the first part of 2017:
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, by James K.A. Smith
“What do you want?” This was Jesus’ opening question in many of his conversations. Could discipleship – truly following Jesus – be more about what we want than what we know? This book was the runner up in Christianity Today’s “Best of 2016” book list, behind Beautiful Orthodoxy. I read Beautiful Orthodoxy last year and bought copies for my kids for Christmas. I don’t do that with many books. I recommend both books very highly.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson (audible version)
If it’s legal drama you want, forget John Grisham’s fiction. Stevenson brings us inside the actual cases, injustices, frustrations and cruelties of America’s racially imbalanced legal system. I find my mind opening and my heart aching for my country. This book has won multiple awards and has a well-earned 5-star rating on Amazon. Must read for anyone seeking to understand why Black Lives Matter.
Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in a Digital Culture, by Heidi Campbell and Stephen Garner
If you’re involved in digital ministry you will appreciate the theological grounding Campbell and Garner provide. It’s a bit heady at times, but the chapters on “Theology of Technology 101” and “Networked Religion: Considering how Faith Is Lived in a Network Society” were worth the price for me. My team has been exploring the shifts we need to help our organization move from hierarchies to empowered networks. The authors explain how five key traits define networked religion: networked community (loose ties with varying levels of affiliation and commitment), storied identity (how people portray themselves to others via social and new media), convergent practice (e.g. how prayer and study habits have become increasingly self-directed), shifting authority (from pastors and credentialed gatekeepers to those with the largest internet followings), and multisite reality (recognizing that the online-offline distinction has been forever blurred).
Awe, by Paul Tripp (audible version)
“You don’t have a ______ problem, you have an awe problem,” writes Tripp. That blank can be filled with any pursuit, achievement, experience, or material good that captivates the human heart. What we are all seeking is awe. And only God can sustainably deliver awe for the human heart. I’m about halfway through this one and really appreciating Tripp’s personal illustrations, penetrating questions and biblical insights that challenge my idolatrous blindspots.
The Inevitable: Understanding 12 Technological Trends That Will Shape Our Future, by Kevin Kelly
Kelly takes us on a tour ten to 30 years into our technological future. Most of these trends are well underway today. I have a colleague, Aaron, on my team that is always talking about future trends stretching over the horizon, and then one to two years later I find myself reading about what Aaron mentioned. Reading Kelly’s book feels like I just finished a 24-hour coffee conversation with Aaron: stimulated, perplexed, curious and intrigued about the implications of digital tech and artificial intelligence on real people. Highly recommended for leaders and strategists responsible for future planning.
The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert Coleman (reread for the umpteenth time)
Last Saturday morning I sat down and reread this classic. It’s a two coffee read that packs a lifetime of wallop. This is in my top five recommendations of formative books on the mentality — and intentionality — of raising up men and women who yearn to follow Jesus and take his message to the ends of the earth.
The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change, by Bharat Anand
Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multi-sided Platforms, by David Evans and Richard Schmalensee
The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities, by JR Woodward and Dan White
Leaders are readers. Readers are leaders.
What’s on the top of your reading list for 2017?