I buy and read a lot of books and 2020 has been no exception. In fact, because of lockdowns I have probably read more than usual. I have been trying to think of what books I have found most useful, that I have not just read but “used” and that might be helpful to other church leaders Well here they are
NIV CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS STUDY BIBLE
I have a whole shelf of study bibles. I added a new one this year, and it has definitely been the one I have lifted down from the shelf most often when I have been preparing for preaching and teaching. Most study Bibles function as mini commentaries on the text, this bible in contrast puts its focus on areas such as culture, geography, and history. To be slightly simplistic normal study bibles help with exegesis, how to understand the text, whereas this one is more helpful to hermeneutics, how to apply the text.
The introduction to the Old and New Testament are helpful, as are the various articles spread relevantly through the text. What I like most about this bible is its accessible. It comes in an easy-to-access format. The Bible sits on my desk its easy to consult and doesn’t involve wading through pages of text to get good academically sound material about the text I’m looking at. It flags up ideas and issues that I can research further in my bigger reference books.
If you are pastor, if you regularly preach or lead a small group or simply want to deepen your understanding of Scripture I would say this is a must for your library.
NO SILVER BULLETS
In previous decades it was common for “successful” churches to publish books about how they “did” church so that other churches could adopt their model. There were hugely successful conferences built around these books. However, many pastors grew disillusioned when the “silver bullet” they thought they had found in these “models” didn’t turn their church into a mega church too.
The basic argument in No Silver Bullets is that there is no one “silver bullet” There is no one model or one thing that a leadership can do that will change a church and make it more effective. Instead, the author suggests making five shifts in how we think about and carry our mission and ministry.
#1: From Destination to Direction …. We should shift to a focus on people moving towards Christ which is a lifelong process. It’s not simply about completing a series of discipleship classes.
#2: From Output to Input. If I want to the output goal of losing weight, I need to have the right inputs for that to happen. I need to watch my diet, take exercise etc. In church life instead of focusing on the output goal, being a disciples, we need to understand the inputs that foster growing discipleship among people. This is built on solid research from Lifeway in the US.
I’ll leave you to discover the other 3 shifts for yourself. These two first ones helped us as a church to think about how we create an effective discipleship pathway. This book has rarely been off my desk. So if you recognise the importance of discipleship and want some help in moving from thinking to creating church systems that help people grow as disciples this is a must read. Just don’t think of it as a silver bullet
Every pastor knows that their people need discipleship and not just when they become new Christians. To sustain a growing relationship with Jesus there are things that believers need to know and habits they need to develop.
Ideally churches would design their own system and material to enable this to happen, their discipleship pastors would be experts in this and create something that would dovetail perfectly with the theology and values of the church. But most of live in the real world, right? In the real-world pastors don’t have the time and let’s be honest the knowledge at times or resources to do that.
Well Greg Ogden is a pastor who does have the knowledge and experience. He has been writing and honing discipleship courses for decades and this book is the fruit of that experience. Over 300, 000 copies have been sold suggesting many people are finding this book helpful. I know I did.
It’s a discipleship “course” built around the idea of micro groups of 3-4 people designed not just to be the context for learning and discussion but also accountability. I have looked at a lot of discipleship courses this year and to me this one across its 24 sessions had the best combination between teaching people the basic theology they need and training them to develop healthy spiritual habits.