Book Recommendations

A Very Incomplete List… but certainly ones worth taking a look at.

1.  Building Cultural Intelligence in Church and Ministry. by Osoba Otaigbe.  Fairly short book, but does a really nice job of pointing out the importance of Cultural Intelligence… especially in ministry. Has plenty of stories and examples to bring the point home.

2.  Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church.  by Reggie MacNeal.  A church-centered view of missions. Discusses mission work (local, regional, and internation) from the perspective of missional churches.

3.  When Charity Destroys Dignity:  Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement.  by Glenn J. Schwartz. While I think he takes the point a little too far at times (but maybe not), his book gives a valuable warning to the common American (and European and Korean) attitude regarding missions of “just send money”. Another great book that is related and, perhaps a bit more positive in the potential for effective ministry is When Helping Hurts:  How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… or Yourself, by Corbett, Fikkert, and Platt. Excellent read.

4.  Bridging the Gap: Evangelism, Developent and Shalom.  by Bruce Bradshaw. Great book on integrating missions work. Wholistic missions.  (Sadly, I seem to have lost my copy… I must get another one.)

5.  Incarnational Agents: A Guide to Developmental Ministry.  by John R. Cheyne. Another great book on holistic missions. I found it annoying that he was complaining that some people spell ‘holistic’ as ‘wholistic.’ But if I make a big deal about it… I am falling into the same trap. It is, after all, a very good book. Another book that similarly focuses on holistic missions is The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns. Both are highly recommended.

6.  From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya.  By Ruth Tucker. Cover of A biography-based history of Christian missions. Very readable. Shows missionaries for who they were… willing but fallable workers for God.  Does do a good job of bringing in women and majority world missionaries into the book. Doesn’t give much reference to missionaries from the Eastern church (but then again, almost no one from the  West does).

7.  Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture. by Lamin Sanneh.  Heavy but wonderful book that shows the importance of the vernacular written word on Christian missions. Compares the Christian “norm” of translation in missions to the Islamic norm of diffusion.

8.  The Gospel Blimp and Other Modern Parables. By Joseph Bayly. Funny yet brutal stories about Christian living and ministry. The main story, The Gospel Blimp, is a must-read for those who seek to be involved in Evangelism.

9.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Edited: Hawthorne, Winter. While I disagree with a some of the underlying assumptions regarding missions in this book, there is no doubt that it is a “must-read” for Evangelicals who are seeking to be familiar with Christian missions.

Cover of "Eternity in Their Hearts: Start...
Cover via Amazon

10.  Leadership Books. Traditionally, I have looked down on leadership books (Leadership books talk about how nothing worthwhile is accomplished without leaders, but personal experience made me tend to have a less glowing view of the role of leaders.)  However, I have found some books worth reading. One of them is “Failing Forward” by John Maxwell.  The other one is “‘Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership” by Gary McIntosh and Sam Rima Jr.  Both are excellent, and easy read, and VERY relevant in a missions environment.

11.  Eternity in Their Hearts, by Don Richardson. Although the book gives the impression that God intentionally places redemptive analogies in each culture (something which I doubt), I commend the book (and its author) in recognizing the value of Redemptive Analogies, utilizing many historical examples.

12.  “Readers Guide to Transforming Mission” by Stan Nussb

Cover of "Churches That Abuse"
Cover of Churches That Abuse

aum. A streamlined and organized version of the book Transforming Mission by David Jacobus Bosch. The original book may be the source… but I love properly organized and compiled information in simplified form. The Reader’s Guide is definitely worth reading.

13.  “Churches that Abuse” by Ronald Enroth. Written in 1992, but should be seen as a classic. Speaks of spiritual abuse and abuse of ecclesiastical power in many churches. This problem is too big to be ignored, and missionaries (as churchplanters) can be tempted to rule their church rather than lovingly guide and nurture. Even though the book is dated… the principles are not. It really should be read by all Christians. Happily, it can be read on line at CCEL.

14.  “Dog and Cat Theology” by Sjogren and Robison.  Not, strictly speaking, missional. However, how one views God has a HUGE affect on how one does ministry. Many involved in ministry have a “CAT” form of personal theology, and many utilize that form of theology is often used in outreach because it is thought that that’s what people want (a God who gives you lots of cool stuff in response to doing stuff for God). I do have to admit that I prefer the first half of the book over the second half. The second half is all about how everything everything everything is about God’s glory… without being all that clear what that actually means, and I am left still questioning whether that actually is true. Regardless, definitely a good book to get one thinking.

15.  “Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative” by Christopher J. H. Wright. Admittedly, I don’t like long books… but here I will make an exception. It develops the concept that the Bible can and should be interpreted missionally… and sets a good foundation for a broader Missions Theology. Worth trudging through. Wright’s strength is the Old Testament, and he does a great job of bringing the OT into today’s missional theology (and missional hermeneutic). He does take a higher view of social ministry than many evangelicals… but I believe on that issue Wright is “in the right.”

16.  “Models of Contextual Theology” by Stephen Bevans.  I think it is a great book to look at when one seeks to contextualize theology. That is important for anyone involved in missions. And frankly, since all theology is contextual (whether done well or poorly), this is good for anyone who values theology. It does leave a fairly large hole in that it doesn’t really address criteria for determining if a contextual theology is good (orthodox) or bad (heterodox). Bevans, and others, do talk about this elsewhere. An important follow-on, especially for Evangelicals is A. Scott Moreau’s book, “Contextualization in World Missions: Mapping and Assessing Evangelical Models.” Moreau’s book is a bit hard to read… but worth trudging through.