You can’t lead…
It dawned on me this morning during my drive to work: there might be a sudden influx of new readers to my blog. Almost all of them will not know me except through the blog. I was thinking about how I can build my credibility. Maybe it’s better stated that I was wondering how I can explain myself and my beliefs without the luxury of meeting everyone face to face for some Taco Bell. So I decided to put together a list of favorites—authors, musicians, movies—so people can gauge where I’m coming from with some of the stuff that I write. I know some people will immediately write me off because of their view of a particular author that I read, but I do hope this list will inspire people to read some of these authors, listen to some of the music, or watch some killer movies. (NOTE: “Killer” is not a reference to film genre, a.k.a. horror movies; it’s a reference to the quality of the movies.)
So without further ado, here are some of my favorite authors and why they are my favorites:
Tony Campolo – I read Tony Campolo because, to put it simply, he’s not crazy. Before I started reading Campolo, I had some reservations about mainstream Conservatism, Evangelicalism, and the Religious Right. Now I’m not saying I’m the opposite of any of these, but before I read Campolo (especially Red Letter Christian), I was skeptical about many of the “Church’s” political views. Campolo drew me in with Carpe Diem and his flirting-with-but-not-fully-committing-to Christian Existentialism and furthered my interest with Red Letter Christian and Letters to a Young Evangelical. Simply put, reading Campolo will inspire thought and provoke contemplation.
John Eldredge – “WHAT?!?! Really? You’re going to follow Campolo with Eldredge?” Yep, it seems to be that way. I love reading Eldredge and here’s why: He was the first author I read that wrote about Christianity and the deep spiritual wars we fight with our hearts. He was (for me) the first author that made it seem normal to be battling the internal wars without coming across as having it all together himself. Plus, the way he writes makes each page a beautiful journey. I started with Wild at Heart and continued with Captivating and Waking the Dead. The last that I've read is The Journey of Desire. His writing will lead to thoughts about personal change and improvement without making you feel condemned.
Donald Miller – Another narrative writer, Miller’s books encourage questioning the accepted Christian norms and methods. He takes his personal search for a “Bullet Point” God and gives it a story. I love reading Miller because he gives life and a sense of reality to God. All of his books were page-turners for me. Start with Blue Like Jazz and then read everything else by him. Through Painted Deserts will make you want to buy a VW Bus and go on a road trip, so unless you have the cash I’d save it for last.
Mike Yaconelli – Sadly Yaconelli passed in 2005. But his books Messy Spirituality and Getting Fired for the Glory of God will encourage anybody to be okay with not being okay. He talks a lot about innovation within the church through meeting people where they are instead of making them come to you. He writes about his church and how it’s, “The slowest growing church in America.” He highly encourages the “quality over quantity” mindset in both youth ministry and your personal relationship with Christ.
C.S. Lewis – I know cliché, right? Well the simple fact is that without C.S. Lewis’s books, it would have taken a lot longer for laymen to start thinking theologically. Plus, you can’t deny the impact that Lewis has had on Christianity as a whole.
Rob Bell – Bell has written a few books—Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and Drop Like Stars—of which I have read none. So why is he on the author list? Well, Rob Bell and his team are the creators of the Nooma videos. In the Nooma videos, Bell explores various ideas and commonly-held beliefs about various aspects of each Christians’ personal life and he challenges them. Bell has come under a lot of fire (mostly from the Fundamentalists) because he interprets the Bible differently than most people. Of that interpretation, I can grasp that he seeks context from within the scriptures and then applies it to today’s life. He challenges each of us to put meaning behind what we do with our faith.
Andrew Schwab - Schwab is the lead singer and song writer for the band Project 86. Schwab is another author that will challenge the basic accepted norms within the church. Although he’s only written three books (two of which are poetry)and has another coming out soon, he is a blog writer for Relevant Magazine. He challenges his readers to be authentic, to be honest to oneself, and to fight social ecclesiological norms when needed. The final chapter of his book, It’s All Downhill From Here, is quite literally one of the best chapters ever written and could very well bring a tear to your eye.
Other books that have made an impact on me:
Youth Ministry 3.0 by Mark Oestreicher – Youth Ministry 3.0 takes a contemplative look at the current trends of youth ministry. This book will help you refocus your youth group and challenge you to think communally about youth ministry.
Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris – Do Hard Things is mostly written for teenagers and young adults. I was 25 when I read it and it still encouraged me to take on harder things. If you’ve been outside of the adolescence bubble for some time, it’ll give you context and encouragement to challenge your teens/youth.
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel – The Case for Christ helps make the irrational, scientifically plausible. It’s a great book to reaffirm your faith when your reason seems to eliminate the possibility of miracles in today’s world.
The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire – The Universe Next Door was a book required in my Worldviews class in college. The tag line for the book is: “A basic worldview catalog,” which it is. But it will help you better understand the world we live in and why certain people think the way they do.
Other classic writers that I read from time to time include John Wesley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, George MacDonald, and Thomas á Kempis. So these are the major authors and books that I’ve read that have influenced my thinking and theology the most. If you have some authors and books that you recommend, let me know. I’m always up for a good read!