My Top Five Books of 2009

Tomorrow I'll list virtually everything I read this year with some kind of cute star system so you know what I thought. I always love it when people post their "top five" or "top ten" books lists on their blogs; it populates my shopping list. But here are my top five from the year.

5. The Trellis and the Vine - Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
This book is one of the last ones I read this year, so that might have bumped it up on the list. Either way, it's excellent. The main point of Marshall and Payne is that churches spend too much time working on systems and structure - the trellis that supports the vine - rather than tending to the vine itself. Chapter 2 comes as close to describing my own personal ministry philosophy as anything else I've ever seen in writing. I don't know that I would flesh ministry out exactly like Marshall and Payne have - they're Australian anyway - but the philosophy behind what they're doing is, in my opinion, spot on.

4. Just Do Something - Kevin Deyoung
I reviewed this book back in June, so you can check that out if you like. It's a book about how to know God's will in your decision-making. Deyoung distinguishes between God's "decreed" and "desired" wills, and presents a clear and concise biblical argument that God gives us a lot of freedom to use the brain He gave us in our decision making. If you're the kind of person who has to make hard decisions from time to time (!), you need to read this book.

3. Leadership and Self Deception - the Arbinger Institute
June must have been a good reading month; I also reviewed this book in June shortly after our staff read it together. It reads like a non-fiction book, but packs a punch. The idea of the book is that all of us - in our homes, businesses, churches, or community organizations - are hard-wired to resist others and behave in ways contrary to what we know would be beneficial for those relationships. The result is all kinds of dysfunction. This book gives you a beating without you knowing you're taking it and needs to be on every leader's shelf.

I reviewed this book back in April. The book is written as a 40-day devotional, but is way too good a book for that. I understand Laniak has a new book that isn't a 40-day devotional, and it's on my list to read for sure. Laniak spent a sabbatical living with Bedouin shepherds in the middle east, and came away with a treasure of knowledge that he has applied to the pastor's role. It is one of those books I'll read every year or so; I think it's that good.

1. The Reason for God - Tim Keller
When I reviewed "While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks" I said that it might be the best book I read all year, in April. It kept its rank until recently when I finished "The Reason for God" by Tim Keller. At Oklahoma State, every new running back recruit is the "next Barry Sanders." In Christian literature, every new apologetic book makes way for the "next CS Lewis." There will never be another Barry Sanders, but if God gives him health, Tim Keller might actually make a run at CS Lewis - at least in the realm of apologetics. Keller couples intense intellectualism with a pastoral heart and humble spirit in arguing for the existence of the Christian God. He isn't afraid to cede arguments to avowed atheists when appropriate, or to point out their inconsistencies. If you're not used to reading philosophical arguments, the book might take you a little longer to read than a normal book, but you won't have to have a PhD to understand it. Either way, it's worth some extra time to read this book. Grab some friends, buy the book, and read through it together. That's how I read it, and found that the discussions were almost as valuable as the book... almost.


elenburg said...

Keller's "Reason for God" was my top pick of the year too. How did it compare to "Counterfeit God's"? I'm planning to read that one too. (Here's what I read this past year:

Like you, I intend to focus more on going to the Source this year. Thanks for the encouragement.

Chris Freeland said...

I really liked Counterfeit Gods. I thought it was the weakest of the 3 Keller books I read, but it was still an excellent book. I reviewed it on December 2:

Thanks for the other recommendations too. I've slogged through Augustine before, but will check out the Edwards book. You'd recommend it?

elenburg said...

That particular Edwards book is a selection of 10 sermons from 1839 London edition of Edward's works. I got it cheap at the FBCN library fire sale b/f we moved into the new Chase Oaks building. I've only read the first 3 sermons. I'm still trying to figure out if he read his sermons or if these were later transcriptions. He was very wordy, but then again, he probably didn't have a 40 minute time limit we moderns tend to put on our pastors unless they are Mark Driscoll. :-) I'm sorta slogging through it like Augustine. No pain, no gain. ;-)