Great Books 2005
Godric: A Novel
Frederick Buechner’s Godric “retells the life of Godric of Finchale, a twelfth-century English holy man whose projects late in life included that of purifying his moral ambition of pride…Sin, spiritual yearning, rebirth, fierce asceticism—these hagiographic staples aren’t easy to revitalize but Frederick Buechner goes at the task with intelligent intensity and a fine readiness to invent what history doesn’t supply. He contrives a style of speech for his narrator—Godric himself—that’s brisk and tough-sinewed…He avoids metaphysical fiddle, embedding his narrative in domestic reality—familiar affection, responsibilities, disasters…All on his own, Mr. Buechner has managed to reinvent projects of self-purification and of faith as piquant matter for contemporary fiction [in a book] notable for literary finish…Frederick Buechner is a very good writer indeed.” — Benjamin DeMott, The New York Times Book
You may want to begin reading this book with the Historical Note on page 177.
This book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Buechner is the author of more than thirty works of fiction and is an ordained Presbyterian minister.
New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1980. 178 pages.
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
A chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny.
From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny.
With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. She shows us the myriad ways in which this sustains and guides her, shining the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life and exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope.
Whether writing about her family or her dreadlocks, sick children or old friends, the most religious women of her church of the men she’s dated, Lamott reveals the hard-won wisdom gathered along her path to connectedness and liberation.
Lamott has authored two bestselling works and has been a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
New York: Anchor Books, 2000. 288 pages.
The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church
In this provocative book, author, consultant, and church leadership developer Reggie McNeal debunks these and other old assumptions and provides an overall strategy to help church leaders move forward in an entirely different and much more effective way. McNeal identifies the six most important realities that church leaders must address including: recapturing the spirit of Christianity and replacing “church growth” with a wider vision of kingdom growth; developing disciples instead of church members; fostering the rise of a new apostolic leadership; focusing on spiritual formation rather than church programs; and shift, from prediction and planning to preparation for the challenges in an uncertain world.
McNeal contends that by changing the questions church leaders ask themselves about their congregations and their plans, they can frame the core issues and approach the future with new eyes, new purpose, and new ideas.
San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass, 2003. 151 pages.
The Power of Uniqueness: : Why You Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be
Arthur Miller with William Hendricks
Based on the idea that every person is endowed from birth with a unique pattern of competencies and motivations, or giftedness, this book describes your Motivated Abilities Pattern (MAP), which indicates your personal giftedness and encourages you to pursue your unique calling and live a purposeful life that is highly productive and richly satisfying. “You can be anything you want to be.” Don’t let that lie rob you of your energy and purpose in life! You may function adequately at a job, even forge an impressive career–but unless what you do is lit by an inner fire, you’re just getting by. Because the truth is, you were created with an indelible, highly personal pattern of innate giftedness and motivation. Arthur Miller calls it your Motivated Abilities Pattern, or MAP, and it’s nothing you learned.
It’s something you were born with, the thing that makes you tick and determines your successes and failures. In this revolutionary book, Miller invites you to explore concepts far different from anything you’ve ever read in a career development guide. Drawing on nearly 40 years’ experience analyzing the achievements of over 50,000 people, Miller uncovers a discovery about human nature that can literally change your life. If you feel frustrated and unmotivated by your present occupation–if you’ve spent months and even years wondering what to do with your life–this book can steer you in new directions that pack incredible returns.
Zondervan Publishing Company, 2002. 255 pages.
Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.” ―Donald Miller
In Donald Miller’s early years, he was vaguely familiar with a distant God. But when he came to know Jesus Christ, he pursued the Christian life with great zeal. Within a few years he had a successful ministry that ultimately left him feeling empty, burned out, and, once again, far away from God. In this intimate, soul-searching account, Miller describes his remarkable journey back to a culturally relevant, infinitely loving God.
For anyone wondering if the Christian faith is still relevant in a postmodern culture. For anyone thirsting for a genuine encounter with a God who is real. For anyone yearning for a renewed sense of passion in life.
Blue Like Jazz is a fresh and original perspective on life, love, and redemption.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003. 243 pages.
The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
Henri J. M. Nouwen
Henri J. M. Nouwen
A chance encounter with a reproduction of Rembrandt’s painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son, catapulted Henri Nouwen into a long spiritual adventure. In his highly-acclaimed book of the same title, he shares the deeply personal meditation that led him to discover the place within which God has chosen to dwell. This Lent course, which has been adapted from the book, helps us to reflect on the meaning of the parable for our own lives. Divided into five sessions, the course moves through the parable exploring our reaction to the story: the younger son’s leaving and return, the father’s restoration of sonship, the elder son’s resentment and the father’s compassion. All of us who have experienced loneliness, dejection, jealousy or anger will respond to the persistent themes of homecoming, affirmation and reconciliation.
The internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor Henri Nouwen wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. He corresponded regularly in English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish with hundreds of friends and reached out to thousands through his Eucharistic celebrations, lectures and retreats. Since his death in 1996, ever-increasing numbers of readers, writers, teachers and seekers have been guided by his literary legacy. Nouwen’s books have sold over 2 million copies and been published in over 22 languages.
New York: Doubleday, 1994. 152 pages.
Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness
Eugene H. Peterson
Peterson uses the book of Jonah as a story-metaphor for what he sees as the ideal way of being a minister … 1) that a minister must first and foremost be grounded in a spirit-filled life through prayer and; 2) to achieve that, the minister must stay in one church throughout his or her whole ministry to really be rooted in the lives of people in the congregation.
“I am pastor of a United Methodist two-point charge. Two churches. Many headaches. I’ve been here three and a half years. I am told numerous pastors “start-out” in smaller, typically rural or town churches as mine are. Then we get noticed and we get moved on up the ladder. Better appointment—better pay—more prestige—better location. How many pastors buy into “the ladder”? More than you think. But Peterson does not. This book planted my feet deeply within my call. I wanted to move into bigger, better, different pastorates. Peterson would tell me, “You wanted to go to Tarshish instead of Ninevah.” His book forced me to recognize that the grass is not greener in a different parish. Comparing me to Jonah, Peterson left me no excuse of any theological integrity to leave my two-point charge. So here I stay. But Mr. Peterson, if you read this … Under the Unpredictable Plant is a horrible title. Few of the dozens of people to whom I have recommended your book can remember that crazy thought.”
Peterson was professor of spiritual theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia. He served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. He has written many books, as well as paraphrased the New Testament, The Message.
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994. 197 pages.
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry
A senior pastor pleads with his colleagues to abandon the secularization of the pastorate and return to the primitive call of the Bible for radical ministry.
Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002. 286 pages.
Buck-Naked Faith: A Brutally Honest Look at Stunted Christianity
Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpress, 2004. 156 pages.
Be real with God. Take off your designer, postmodern phoniness. Strip off your pretty-sounding words. Get your faith naked. Honest and gritty, Eric Sandras encourages a generation of believers to drop the layers of make-believe nonsense that stunts our spiritual growth. What emerges is a positive alternative to life-crushing counterfeit faiths many of us are trying our best to work through. To do this, there’s no secret handshake or magic formula, but there is vision and encouragement to take the risk and get dangerously real with God. He exposes the naked truth: We need to dress our lives with a real friendship with God and nothing else.
Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches
Christian A. Schwarz
The book says of itself: “Critics of the church growth movement have often emphasized the need for quality congregations. ‘Don’t focus on numerical growth, concentrate on qualitative growth.’ Christian Schwarz agrees wholeheartedly! Through careful research, Christian Schwarz has verified the link between health and growth.” Schwarz has eight quality characteristics: Empowering leadership, gift-oriented ministry, passionate spirituality, functional structures, inspiring worship service, holistic small groups, need-oriented evangelism and loving relationships. None of these quality characteristics may be missing from a healthy church.
“The premise of Natural Church Development is that as obstacles to growth are removed, the church will naturally grow as God has given it the ability to grow. A comparison can be made to a plant. If you plant in poor, rocky soil, provide very little sunlight and no water, the plant will not grow. If you remove the rocks, provide good soil, adequate sunlight and water, the plant will naturally grow, as God has given it the ability to grow.”
ChurchSmart Resources, 1996. 128 pages.