Last year, I was asked frequently what books I was reading. For the majority of my life, the answer to that question would have been “I am in between books at the moment.” I couldn’t tell them honestly enough that I just didn’t read books. The seminary graduate who almost never cracked a book on his own? How sad is that?
Well, I made a change on January 1 of 2023 (one year ago) that improved my personal growth dramatically. I got an Audible account. As a result, I "read" 16 books last year! Finally, a New Years’ resolution that worked.
So, I share with you an incredible year in reading for me. These are my favourite books of 2023. I chose them simply based on how impactful they were on me and my ministry, even if I did not totally agree with what some of the authors espoused. Hope you find some valuable nuggets for your own reading in 2024. (NOTE: All links below are for paperback versions from Amazon.)
1. Intensive Care Units by Danny Perez – I will preface this by saying that I am good friends with the author and his ministry makes a short list of the most impactful influences on my own. ICU provides a model for small groups that emphasizes intentional relationship building. A Cadence International missionary of over 40 years, Danny has been working on this book for over a decade and I am pleased to recommend it to anyone interested in and sees the value of small groups as a church ministry.
2. Nobody’s Mother by Sandra Glahn – Here is one more book written by someone with whom I have a personal friendship. Dr. Glahn was one of a few professors who had a profound impact on both my education and my ministry. She is a Professor of Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary where I graduated in 2016. Dr. Glahn instructed me in my writing and helped me hone a craft that led to all the vocational pursuits that followed to present. Nobody’s Mother is a deep dive in interpreting the peculiar and controversial passage from 1 Timothy 2:15 that says women “will be saved through childbearing.” Dr. Glahn provides a comprehensive understanding of the Greek goddess Artemis and her impact on first-century Ephesus as a way of providing a cultural context for Paul’s strange comments on childbearing. Scholastic in its style, this book is beyond fascinating.
3. Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer – Remember Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber? VeggieTales impacted our home when my boys were little perhaps more than any other media influence. Well, did you ever wonder what happened to Bob, Larry, and all the talking vegetables that were so popular a few years ago? VeggieTales founder Phil Vischer takes you through the rise and fall of Big Idea Productions, the company that brought VeggieTales to the world. It is primarily an honest look at Phil’s faith journey impacted by one of the most fascinating business stories ever told.
4. A Non-Anxious Presence by Mark Sayers – This book proved more impactful on my role as the pastor of a small church than any other. Sayers skillfully builds an argument for possessing and exuding a posture of calm as it relates to shepherding or mentoring other people in their faith. The world is teeming with anxiety and what people require is a template or a model for living out the peace that passes all understanding. When those in leadership (both in a church context and beyond) are effective in providing a non-anxious presence for others, the ripple effect leads to better productivity and healthier relationships both in the home and in the workplace. I LOVE THIS BOOK!
5. Atomic Habits by James Clear – The most popular and bestselling of the books on this list, Clear did something that so many authors before him failed to do for me: he wrote a self-help book that I liked. So often, people who write such books peddle a lot of advice that I find empty or syrupy. Saccharine platitudes and all-too-common insights make for poor books. This book is not that. What I found was practical and insightful strategies as it relates to understanding the connection between habit formation and one’s personal identity. Clear argues that a person does in relation to who they are. Very helpful book for those who are tired of the usual in self-help.
6. Irresistible by Andy Stanley – This one might be the most controversial of the books in this year’s list. I chose to read it when I heard that one of the quotes from the book was, “Thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments.” Andy Stanley is a Dallas Seminary grad like myself, and his father is one of the most respected preachers of the last century, so how could he make such a statement? I had to know. What followed was a book where Stanley makes the claim that the Old Testament is not authoritative for the modern Christian. While I am not ready to join him in professing that, I found a lot of the book challenging in a good way. Think you know your Bible? Stanley will challenge you on that, and I am grateful for having read it.