You Are What You Love Reviewed

At this point I have to admit something to the people who read this blog something you already know, namely that I’ve been terrible at keeping up with the blog. The good news is that I’ve been slightly less terrible at keeping up with my reading list and I will try to get around to publishing more reviews of my books in the next couple of weeks assuming that my paying job and my church responsibilities don’t keep me away

I mentioned in my reading list that today’s book “You Are What You Love” was on many book of the year lists from people I greatly respect. I wanted to like this book simply based on the fact that the title sounds like something I would say both figuratively and literally (we’ll get to that). Ultimately, I think the book did have some very strong point but I did not like it, had to work like crazy to get through it, and I don’t think it benefitted me or would benefit most anyone in my little mission field much. Even so, I’ll start with the positives

I think the author and I would get along well and see eye to eye on many things, even things he covers in the book. He rightly and forcefully makes the case early and often that the Christian life is a life of “knowing” in a relational sense and not “knowing” in an academic sense. I think the one sentence that basically summarizes the whole book is found on page 127, “You might have bible verses on the wall in every room in your house and yet the unspoken rituals reinforce self-centeredness rather than sacrifice.” Indeed, this idea that how we actually live our lives reveals what we truly love most is part of his core message and a core message of the Bible. Why did Israel turn from God to idols? Ultimately it was because they wanted to. Maybe they thought God was unreliable, or the idols promised something better, or they didn’t want to wait for God. The bottom line was in the moment of that hope transfer from the one true God to an idol they wanted what they believed the idol promised more than what they believed God promised

So he goes on to point out all the ways God asks people to examine their desires and how the life of desire is more central to the souls of people made in God’s image than the life of knowledge acquisition. He blows up the idea you see in many conservative Christian circles “You grow by what you know” and he points out this means that the life spent following Jesus is “more about hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing,” and I think that’s more or less right. He shows very well how that philosophy would play out in practical ways in churches and homes and youth groups. That emphasis and those specific applications can be appreciated by almost anyone who wants to transform life. It is in the unconscious “default setting” of our hearts that ultimately makes most of the choices in life, and thus we need to make conditioning that setting (which he calls telos) a major priority in becoming more like Jesus. These points are very strong in my view.

So why not a positive review and recommendation? I’ll list several reasons:

  • It’s important to remember that for books related to ministry in the church, I’m reading them in a totally different context than I did a few years ago. I am serving poor, minority, mostly under-educated people here. Not a single one of them could have gotten 10 pages into this book. It was written by a philosophy professor and it shows. If you’re a middle class, white, college educated, philosophy lover that serves people like yourself, than you’ll like this book way more than I did. It’s not just the concepts that are hard to tackle, there are far too many complicated words for no apparent reason which makes it difficult to read. Take “telos”. Why not just say “default setting” or the word the Bible uses, “heart.” Any term you pick is going to take some explanation, but it would have been nice to read this book without a dictionary. I could have used the word “pattern” instead of liturgy. There are at least a dozen more. The book is just not that accessible.
  • I am also underwhelmed at how far he takes this idea of “liturgy.” At one point I asked in my notes why he keeps doing this and then it finally occurred to me that it’s the whole point of his book. He believes that church liturgies – the doing the same things over and over routine seen in some church traditions – are somehow more of an interaction between God and people even though it’s really just the people doing the same things over and over. He equates these church traditions that stand out in our culture as somehow automatic evidence of transcendence. I think he goes way too far with this in a way a Baptist with the same core convictions would not go simply because of a different experience in Sunday gatherings. He is imposing his form of church on his notion of spiritual formation (although he argues he is not doing that).
  • Related to this, I am not comfortable with the way he praises liturgical forms of so called “Christian” traditions that do not hold to the core teachings of the faith such as Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox. I’m not trying to start a fight, I’m only saying those groups do not believe the same things about how to become a Christian, how to grow as a Christian, or how Christian identity is expressed in a local church. It is mind boggling to me that he would promote them as examples.
  • Since he sees liturgies as transformational, he then takes the massive leap that if we just start doing a different liturgy we will become changed people. I just don’t think the Bible says that. I think, contrary to his earlier quote which I mostly like, discipleship is primarily about believing. It is about choosing to believe the truth or believe a lie. I would totally agree with Dr. Smith that the truths you believe show up in your practical life patterns, but I don’t believe that changing patterns changes hearts. A man who hates his wife and kids and believes they are the reason for everything bad in his life will avoid them. Having a family dinner every night is not going to change anything but that man’s schedule. Might God use something in that commitment to change the man’s heart? Only if he is operating from faith (what he believes) when he makes the change. That is what the bible says and what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.
  • And so my #1 concern with the book is what I see as an over emphasis on what amounts to religious externalism. The author wants us to believe that “rehabituation” is the key to a transformed life. If only people did different things, then their hearts would change. If only they were more committed to “transcendent” ceremonies and liturgies and traditional worship contexts then they’d really look like Jesus. The problem is that idea perfectly describes the Pharisees who Jesus condemned by saying “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” All of their liturgy didn’t make them follow Jesus. The Bible just doesn’t seem to indicate that people change like that.
  • Even at just under 200 pages the book seemed long to me. I cover half of his concept in a sentence I say all the time to my church family and those who come to counseling: 100% of the people, 100% of the time, chase what they love most. I bet if he worked with Mez McConnell or someone else focused on less highly educated disciples he could get the book down to 120 pages and make it far more accessible at the same time.

 

Prepared for a Purpose Reviewed

I came across this book at a local discount store and thought it would be a good addition to my 2017 reading list. It met several criteria from a list I was using to push me toward a more diverse set of authors: female author, minority author, memoir style. The author had the commendation of sources as broad as President Obama and Fox News. Plus, this was a crisis event that happened in my own metro area so it seemed something I might benefit from socially and professionally (my career is in crisis management).

I think I would enjoy the author’s company quite a lot. It’s clear from the book we share many values, but her background is so different than mine I think she would stretch the way I applied those common values. In doing some homework on her story, her daughter Lavita has had some noteworthy successes which is also a great testimony to the author (couldn’t learn much about her son). The details of her story of how she reacted  when she was the primary point of contact a gunman showed up at her school would be riveting. She as a resilient faith in Jesus that would be an encouragement to any Christian.

But this is a book review, so my job is to evaluate how good of a book this is. I think it’s middle of the road at best for a few reasons.

The author uses a somewhat common technique of bouncing from her life story to the crisis event. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the times when she would flashback to her life story I found it interesting but totally unrelated to the crisis event. Since the title of the book is “Prepared for a Purpose” I was really expecting the connections to be frequent and obvious but in my opinion they were not. It was not until page 140 (of 219) when she talked about a time when she felt like things were so bad she wanted to die that I caught any connection between the two events whatsoever.

The other thing I think really distracted me about the book is how far out of her way the author went to try to make her boyfriend/husband seem like less of a jerk. I’m guessing we only got a fraction of the whole story in this book and it’s still enough to know I would have not liked this guy very much. I saw a Ted Talk type video with the author’s daughter and she described her dad as a notorious drug dealer. I was not surprised in the slightest. It’s pretty clear to me that while it was perhaps part of her preparation for this event, the actual substance of that relationship was pretty one sided. As a church leader, I was disappointed how much her church failed to protect her from him and had to wonder how much of that was because the church leader and her husband were related. Maybe there is more to the story that would change my opinion.

One struggle for me as I read a memoir written by a professing Christian is to take off my theological filter and just appreciate the book for what it is. That was true in this case. I’m not sure how much actual doctrine the author and I would agree on and I found myself frequently having to take a step back from my doctrinal filter. The wonderful thing for me is when I did that you got to see a lot of the author’s hopes, dreams and pursuits. I was forced to ask myself hard questions like “Since she seems like a smart and capable lady, why would she stick around with this loser?” She is pretty transparent in her life story so it’s not hard to piece together some of the forces that drove her decision making. In our ministry context we meet ladies who make the same decisions all the time and I am grateful for the reminder through this book that things that are obvious to me simply aren’t so obvious to others. Perhaps these ladies are more justified in their conclusion than I would initially think, or at least more worthy of compassion.

Overall, I think that is the best part of the book – getting the chance to see behind the curtain of Antoinette’s life. If she had never been the calming influence that may have saved dozens of lives in August 2013, that would still be a story worth knowing.

Code Name Verity Reviewed

It’s the worst time of the year. The time when I have to review a fiction book. I don’t even know how to review a fiction book. I read the Code Name Verity at the request of my daughter who says it is her favorite all time book.As I write this, I am even tempted to keep this introductory paragraph so long that I never have to write the actual review. I wonder whether that will work. I doubt too many people will find it compelling. I am running out of things to say. I give up.

I thought it was a good book. I don’t think I”d re-read it as my daughter has, but it was well written and the story line was pretty interesting. The setting is the end of WW2 and you don’t get too far into the book before you appreciate the amount of research the author did about the various aspects of history, culture, and war fighting of the time. I’m always heartened to learn non-fiction while reading fiction. In a wonderful twist, something I learned in the book showed up in an episode of Foyle’s War I watched the next day which had the effect of increasing my opinion of the book.

In terms of style and flow, the author takes an interesting approach by organizing the book into journals written by the two main characters. It’s a clever way to write – having your characters do the writing for you, and I imagine it’s harder to do this than it is to just sit down and write the book like I’m writing this review. Despite the format, the book is still filled with the kind of surprises you would expect to see in a thriller style book and there are plenty of plot lines you don’t actually grasp until the end of the book.

Even though the bulk of the content in the book is about two people’s involvement in the Allied war effort, the book is really about a friendship between Julie and Maddie. Their love for each other transcends their significant differences and I suppose that in and of itself is a heartwarming aspect of the book that would improve our world if modern readers would just believe it.

Since I have made it clear that I have no idea how to review a fiction book, I admit I cheated a little and read the NY Times review of the book. They admitted that saying anything about the plot could ruin the book for the reader. This is something my daughter understood well as she told told me nothing about the book when at the same time enthusiastically explaining why I should read it. The good news for me is that I now have an out to say much more about it. Wonderful how it works out that way.

I would recommend the book for anyone who enjoys spy fiction, especially of the WW2 period. It’s a “girl power” book without being one of those “shove it down your throat” girl power books bathed in pretension that are well hated and ignored by the very people who probably ought to read a few more girl power books.

2017 Reading List

While I did not finish my whole list in 2017, I did read a lot. In addition to all the reading necessary to finish my Master’s degree, I also read several books that were timely based on what was going on at work, home or in the little church I pastor.

For 2017, my goal is similar. I want to read books that I would not have normally picked up. After last year, I am better as seeing some of my blind spots and have chosen some books on my own, but I am grateful to those who recommended books as well. I have not matched up the criteria my friend Buffy gave me with this list, but I’ll post how well I do. Here’s the list…

Dairy Queen Days by Robert Inman – One of the book list resources provided by my friend Buffy suggested you read something based in your city or region. Robert Inman is an author that wrote several books based in Georgia. I’ve never heard of him, but it gets me out of reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. 

Jihad vs. McWorld by Benjamin Barber – Recommended by a freind from our old church. The book tries to explain how the battle between consumerist capitalism and religious and tribal fundamentalism will play out. Given it was written in 1995, we’ll already be able to see whether he was right.

Prepared for a Purpose  by Antoinette Tuff – I saw this book at a discount store and thought that since it was something that happened in my area that I had never heard of it could be useful to read. It also meets the criteria of being written by a woman, someone of a different race, a book by someone who isn’t a writer (sort of an oxymoron, but she’s apparently a school clerk for her day job), and a journal/memoir.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing – I’d read a business book that tried to squeeze principles of Shackleton’s expedition into how I should run a department and it was entertaining enough. This one was recommended by a friend and I given a colleague of mine just went on an Antarctica expedition a it should give me something to talk with her about also.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – The same friend who posted the criteria for choosing a book list recommended this one, so if I fail it will be pretty much her fault. (evil grin) Based on the way she talked about it I can’t wait.

One Second After by William R. Forstchen – The forward for this book was written by Newt Gingrich which might be the first time Newt has been forward thinking since the Contract With America in 1995. A buddy from grade school that reconnected with me on Facebook a few years ago recommended it so it should give us something to talk about besides whether Mrs. Colosimo’s nose was real or not.

God & Churchill: How the Great Leader’s Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours by by Jonathan Sandys – Not sure I will get to this book this year given the backlog from last year. Churchill has always been an incredibly important historical figure to me but I have never read anything on him longer than article length.


Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Redesign) by John Owen, Kelly M. Kapic, Justin Taylor
 – This book is a compilation of three of Owen’s works. I love Owen in small bites, but picking up one large book of his work is not something I would have ever done without some prodding. At 464 pages, it doesn’t quite get to the need for a 500 page book but it will certainly tax me and meets the need for a 100 year old book. I’m thinking I may even give myself credit for a book translated from another language given the need for Kapic and Taylor to basically translate the old English to modern language.The One Year Chronological Bible NLT  by Tyndale – A friend of mine who pastors a large church uses the NLT with his congregation. It is not a great translation in terms of accuracy but it is super easy to read and it meets my purpose for reading the Bible chronologically from time to time. I like to see the flow of God’s movement so an easy to read version will help me focus on that rather than what the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek idioms mean.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – This is Lydia’s favorite book or something like that and she said she’d disown me if I didn’t read it.

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith – One of the things I say most often in pastoral counseling is “100% of the people, 100% of the time, chase what they love most.” This book came highly recommended by people who are highly recommended so I thought it would help me articulate my frequent saying better.

The Count Of Monte Cristo (Unabridged) by Alexandre Dumas – I needed a book that has been made into a movie, and Kristen gave the the choice of this or Pride and Prejudice. It was not a hard decision.

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters by Bayard Rustin and Michael G. Long – One of my goals in recent years has been to read more from people who are really different than me. Sometimes this helps me see things differently, sometimes it helps me refine my own view, and always it helps me be more compassionate toward those with very different views. Rustin was a black, one time communist, gay civil rights leader who died in 1987. President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino – This book involves a case of mistaken identity where someone incarcerated and then freed on DNA evidence from the Innocence Project reconciles with his accuser and then they both work to right this kind of injustice. Hoping it gives me some additional insight into what it looks like to be on the short end of a justice system that can fail us at times.

Books from last year that I am carrying over to 2017…

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – suggested by two very different people so I am eagerly anticipating it although I know nothing about it.

Side by Side by Ed Welch – Author was a seminary prof but his class was on the totally opposite end of the counseling spectrum and he always struck me more as a deep thinker than church body life master so I’m interested to see what he has to say.

Trinity by Leon Uris – Another big thick book of unknown content and style highly recommended by someone I respect a lot who is coming off a major life adventure himself. I figure if someone who’s just had their horizons broadened recommends it, I ought to take that recommendation seriously.

Fools Talk by Os Guinness – I’ve never read anything by Guinness before but I am consistently reminding myself how much I need to focus on being more winsome in presenting Jesus Christ as the supremely beautiful savior and I’m hoping this helps me.

The Reformers and their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin – A good friend told me years ago to read the book and he’s never gotten one wrong yet. I’m interested to see how much of the Reformation is really being embraced today.

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren – Certainly not something I’d normally pick. One of the ironic things to me about watching Bernie Sanders is that he’s actually right about many of the problems but has some kind of disconnect in the solution (IMHO). I’m hoping this will both open my eyes to areas where maybe I am blind and also help me understand people on the left side of the political spectrum a little better.

Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren – Basically the same as the Max Lucado book. I feel like I might be the only person in the western Christian church who hasn’t already read this book. From the snippets that I have read and what I already know about Warren, I’m assuming I’m not going to like it but I think it’s important to see what Christians (broadly defined) are reading.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo – This was the #1 adult book sold on Amazon.com in 2015  and so it may make some sense to see what it says and to see what it says about our culture that so many copies were sold on this topic.

Outlive Your Life – Max Lucado

I have been delaying this review longer than I should because in all candor I did not want to write it. The book was disappointing in so many ways and while it was not totally without merit, I can think of a dozen or more books that would accomplish the goal of this one better, with more insight, and at a higher level of truth content.

I will say that Lucado has a very easy to read writing style. I added this book to my list in 2016 because I wanted to see what made his work so popular in Christian circles. Undoubtedly, his writing style is one reason. I also have to commend a clever use of word pictures and illustrations to get his point across. The book has more horse sense (“If we wait until everything is perfect, we’ll never issue and invitation.”) than it does actual biblical admonitions.

That’s pretty much all I can say that is positive. Perhaps the worst thing I can say, and I don’t mean it in any way other than a comparison of the books I reviewed this year, is that it reminded me a lot of  Joel Osteen. Of course the book is not as theologically bankrupt as Osteen’s was, but it is very similar in the way it relied on illustrations and stories to make points that may or may not be in the Bible. It seemed like Lucado’s chief goal was readability rather than fidelity to the truth. On one hand, readability is really important when communicating truth because if people put the book down after 10 pages the truth never gets out. On the other hand, if the way you keep people reading is by being clever, they’re never going to see Jesus.

One of the most troubling aspects of the book is the way Lucado just starts making stuff up about Bible stories without ever differentiating what is his imagination and what is in the actual text. He makes up facts that potentially change the meaning of the Scripture about Annas, Peter, Philip, Ananias/Sapphria, and others. It’s actually scary to think he’s so comfortable representing his musings about what happened as authoritative. I’m not saying we should never use our imagination – we’ve dedicated our Friday evening evangelistic study to that very thing – but we’re just so much more careful about stating what is God’s Word and what is us filling in the blanks.

Another disappointment from the book was how many different translations Lucado used throughout (eight in total). It seemed like he already knew what he wanted to say and just went looking for verses to back it up in whatever version made that easiest for him. Certainly sometimes there are nuances that our preferred version do not catch well, but it just strikes me as more honest to say that outright and take a sentence or two to explain it. Bouncing around between versions is at least lazy and potentially intellectually dishonest.

The book was not without any merit. The chapter on hospitality was pretty good. Some of the stories were helpful to illustrate rather than usurp a biblical point. In the end I simply cannot recommend it. If you are interested in a book that will help you think about what it would look like to invest your life in such a way that your impact lives on after you I would recommend John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life (free PDF available), Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor, or Dave Harvey’s Rescuing Ambition. Another idea would be to read a biography of someone who left a legacy after he or she died such as John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken or Fox’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe.

Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear reviewed

I mentioned at the beginning of the year that this book made my 2016 list because I knew I would disagree with the author on all sorts of issues around body life in a church but admired what I saw as a commitment toward church planting. The book confirmed both of those notions.

I think the book’s basic strength is that it’s written by someone who believes enormous churches where you cannot possibly know the people around you are a good thing. That’s because those churches, if they saw the issue of sending properly, have the most immediate opportunity to impact the landscape of Christianity in America. In one chapter, Greear explains that it’s wonderful to both be attractional (meaning to try to draw people into church gatherings for evangelism) and missional (meaning we need to go to non-Christians and proclaim the gospel to them in ways that are adapted to their language, background, and culture. The way he explains it is useful and a helpful bridge to people who still think inviting people to church is an effective evangelistic technique (which it almost never is now and will be even less so in the future).

One of the first things that hits you in the book is J.D.’s humility in admitting that he did not start off with the mentality and philosophy of ministry he promotes in the book. In several places in the book he comes back to where he had to make substantial course corrections and repent of sinful or bad motivations in order to get to where they are now.

His overarching point, made on page 19 and then throughout the book, is that since the God of the Bible is a sending, or missionary God, His followers should be as committed to it as He is. That has to include more than just writing a check to someone living 3000 miles away, it has to be a lifestyle. He effectively draws the comparison of the church as an aircraft carrier that equips the war planes then sends them out for battle as opposed to a cruise liner built for the comfort of its passengers or a battleship that does it’s fighting in limited amounts of big bangs (p 27-29). The idea culminates a few chapters later when he writes:

When the church begins to operate with the assumption that everyone is called, our approach to mobilization will shift dramatically. We won’t limit our mission engagement to a bulletin board in the lobby with images of people serving in New Guinea that church members should pray for, as important as that is. We will see every  member of our church as a potential missionary to be equipped and mobilized. Our goal is not to send some, or even our best, but to send all into the mission – to our city, across the country, or to the other side of the world.

Even though he is a “big church” guy whose Facebook page looks like a rock concert, in the book he does warn big churches trying to be attractional that many times they can “substitute the gathering power of entertainment for the transforming power of the cross.” It’s a helpful warning to those trying to walk the line J.D. is walking and while I bet he and I would see the line at very different places, I’m glad to see that someone who claims to pastor 6,000 people believes there is a line at all.

The chapter on racial reconciliation was useful mostly because it didn’t just repeat the same drivel that is spouted from many church leaders today. He actually talked a little about what it would take for the church to truly be reconciled across racial lines. I think he overplayed the hand that God expects us to primarily reach unbelievers who are a lot like us, but overall it was well done. One quote in particular was worth sharing.

“Multicultural engagement within your city, like international missions, is something that all believers are expected to participate in, but that God moves certain believers to pursue with focused intentionality. The apostle Paul was in that category. Some of us (under the leadership of the Spirit) need to make this cause our cause. After all, it makes no sense to send people 10,000 miles across the globe to reach people of other cultures when we won’t send people ten miles across our own city to reach people in different neighborhoods. Why would we cross the seas but not the tracks?” (p172)

The flow of the book seemed a little choppy to me, mostly because he “chapterized” the core principles that they emphasize at his church. I’m sure it fits their mostly white, suburban, middle class, enormous church but a lot of it didn’t really fit my world at all and a lot of his talking points wouldn’t make much sense to the mission field God has given us. That’s okay because we have our own core principles but in some ways it interfered with the value of the book for me. Still, as I reviewed my kindle version I noticed at least one highlight in each chapter although there seemed to me more highlighting early on.

By the end of the book I was convinced J.D. was someone who really loved Jesus and wanted to see the knowledge of His glory cover Raleigh Durham like the waters cover the sea. I was also convinced I wouldn’t last more than a month at his church. The book is a worthwhile read for anyone looking for examples of the kind of culture necessary to be a church that is really focused on the Great Commission. It’s a fairly easy read for a 250 page book and most readers could complete it without any problems.

2016 Reading Results

Well, I didn’t get as much of my reading list completed as I had hoped for. A few unexpected books had to be read and my Master’s thesis took a little more out of me at the first part of the year than I expected. There is only so much reading my non reader brain can handle. My original list with the rationale is here 2016 Reading List, which focused on things I would not normally pick up and the recommendations of friends. I posted reviews of many of the books I read on this site. I will repeat this approach in 2017. Here are the top five books and why:

Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley – Wonderfully written book that challenges both right wing and left wing assumptions about what makes for a good education system. Turns out something like common core is important and per pupil spending is not. Very easy to read and I really appreciate how the author, who admits to being left of center, challenged so many of the bedrock principles of the NEA.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – I suppose it’s not surprising that I liked this book as much as I did given millions of other people did too. I finished it faster than any book its length in my life and still cannot get over how much this book displays the outrageous goodness of God to Louie in so many different circumstances. The movie was good and captured many things brilliantly, but missed the core point Louie would want made, namely the lovingkindness of Jesus to love him so patiently so long.

Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose – I would not have supposed that a book on the people who built the transcontinental railroad would have been as compelling as it was. Ambrose did a masterful job of presenting these real life characters and introducing me to Theodore Judah. My next pet, even if it is a rock, will be named Judah.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – I don’t really read fiction that much because normally I think the truth is funnier, but this was a good recommendation and after the first 200 pages or so it really picked up. The book is massive, so finishing it at all was almost as much of an accomplishment as learning to enjoy fiction for what it is.

Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear – This book gets an honorable mention simply because I wish more leaders in evangelical churches would read it. I have too many friends in too many churches that live as if the only way to “win” is to grow the number of people attending each weekend when J.D. makes a case that winning only happens when disciples are made and the New Testament pattern seems to be a distributed model where Christians spread out rather than cluster together in little like-minded bubbles.