I've been lax on book reviews recently. A good majority of the reason is that I'm still reading primarily toward completing my dissertation and those books aren't very interesting to review. But, I've read some others that I want to mention. So here are some brief reviews of the best books I've read recently (in no particular order).
Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands - Paul Tripp
I'm reading a lot by Tripp these days. This one was recommended by a friend. Tripp is a counselor and former pastor and has written what turns out to be a guidebook for anyone who wants to walk with broken people and point those people toward the Cross. If you're familiar with "nouthetic counseling," Tripp is a nouthetic counselor without the arrogant attitude. He points people to eternal realities and helps people understand the implications of the heart on behavior and identity, but doesn't do it with a closed fist. This is a good, helpful book worth reading for anyone who finds themselves leaning-into the lives of broken people, whether professionally or just as a friend.
Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories - Daniel Taylor
Taylor is a professor of English at Bethel College in Minnesota. As famous as English professors are for writing literature nobody wants to read, Taylor has written a gem. Written from a Christian perspective, Taylor shows how the stories of history, the stories of our lives, and the stories of our theology shape the lives that we live. We live within and interact within the plot of our own life and within the plot of the lives of others. Additionally, the stories we read, hear, understand, and believe shape our morals, values, ethics, character, and comprehension of the way the world works. This book will make you want to tell a lot more stories, hear a lot more stories, and pay awfully close attention to the stories (good and bad) you are a part of.
Replenish - Lance Witt
Every pastor needs to read this book. I read it at the recommendation of a friend and mentor and it hit me between the eyes. Witt does a masterful job at helping pastors release themselves from the unhealthy expectations of themselves, the church culture, and their congregations to focus solely on numerical growth (which causes every pastor alive to feel like a loser), and to focus instead on yielding himself to the work of God through His ministry and within His church. It's written in 41 short chapters that help the pastor (1) detoxify their soul, (2) set realistic goals for ministry, (3) establish patterns that are sustainable, and (4) build healthy teams. I'm going to buy a copy for our each of our team members for Christmas (don't tell them) so our team can keep some of these ideas at the forefront of our minds.
Read This Before Our Next Meeting - Al Pittampalli
Most leaders will be able to read this book in about 30 minutes. It's an easy, easy, read. Implementation on the other hand... "Read This Before Our Next Meeting" takes on the fact that the majority of a company's meetings are a redundant drain on productivity that as a result waste a fortune of company time and money. He offers some solutions to make meetings more productive. In short, he believes meetings should be solely for the purpose of conflict and coordination by a small group of only the people who have a (strong opinion about a matter and a dog in the hunt) about a soft-decision that has already been made by the leader. Meetings for formality; social benefit, and information are a waste of time. According to Pittampalli, if it can be accomplished in a well-written memo, don't waste the time with a meeting. People can read faster than they can meet. You won't agree with all his conclusions - he uses a fairly rigid top-down leadership style. However, most of his observations and solutions are spot-on.
Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It - Paul Tripp
Tripp is Gospel-centered, Jesus-centered, eternity-centered. That's why I like a lot of what he's putting out these days. This book is a shining example of that. Tripp points out that every human is hard-wired for eternity. Our longings, disappointments, shortcomings, angers, suffering, and struggles all reveal a yearning for something different; something better. Tripp does a great job walking through our daily lives, from relationships to jobs to religion to parenting to marriage, and the various circumstances and situations we find ourselves in every day, and showing how they can drive us toward worship of the God who makes "forever" available. This book is exceptional for two purposes: (1) It helps the reader better understand what is happening in his or her heart when they process their own real life. (2) It helps the reader connect the Gospel with the struggles, habits, hurts and hangups we see in the lives of others. Understanding what Tripp says in this book can help you be an incredible evangelist wherever you are because it gives Gospel-handles to real-life situations we all face every day.
Necessary Endings - Henry Cloud
In order to see growth, something often has to die. Yet all of us resist endings. As far back as high school we resisted breaking up with the girl we knew was bad for us, even though we knew that's where the relationship was headed. We hang onto the wrong job; the wrong role; the wrong employee. We resist ending programs, initiatives, traditions, and all kinds of things in our lives for all kinds of reasons. Cloud has written a brilliant book to help show why endings are important, why we avoid endings, and how to accomplish necessary endings as a friend, boss, employee, or parent. This is an extremely important book for leaders, and was a tremendous encouragement to me as a young leader.