My Top Books of 2017 (Jake)
When I left college 3 years ago I thought I was done with reading. Don't get me wrong I enjoy reading but it felt like I was done. You see because I married young and then had kids young I took what they call the victory lap at college. Which means instead of graduating in 4 years it took me 5. 5 1/2 actually... So I was done with reading because it felt like every day of my life I was forced to read. Then I moved to Mound City, Kansas and became the Student Pastor here at First Baptist Church. I quickly realized that I was not done reading. I serve under a great Pastor who pushes everyone around him to never stop growing and learning. One of the primary ways one can do this is by reading.
"It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it."
So I set off in 2017 with a goal of 40 books! I would have to average roughly 4 books a month to accomplish this goal. I was nervous but excited to see what I could accomplish. With the help of audio books I thought I could do it. Well I did... in fact I finished the year well over 100 books! I'm not really sure what happened except that it was something like opening the flood gates, once I started I could not get enough. I read a ton of good books this year and even some great ones. I also read some not so good books. Here is a few of my favorites and one I didn't like so much. I am going to break it down in a few categories.
1. Best Non-Fiction. "Fearless" by Eric Blehm
Adam Brown was a Navy Seal who was constantly at war. War with the Taliban in post 9/11 and also at war with himself and sin. This is a story of sacrifice, humility, pain, and love. Lost in drugs and sin, Adam joined the Navy and with help from family, friends, and the Lord he found himself as a part of the most elite fighting teams in history. Adam's discipline and fortitude is inspiring and his love for his family is beautiful. This is a must read and one that I will read year after year.
2. Best Leadership. "Lead Small" by Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas
I have been the Student Pastor here at FBC for 3 years. For each of those years I have been striving to improve the ministry by seeing students discipled and loved. I came from a small youth ministry of about 15 students where I had a great relationship with each student. That just wasn't possible here. So the answer I believe is to place as many adults who love jesus with as many students as possible. I believe the way to do this is by small groups. Groups of 8-10 students connected with 2 adults on a weekly basis. Small groups aren't a knew idea but this book takes it and gives it life. If you want to see a practical and effective way to be a small group leader then READ THIS BOOK! It gave me a plan to work and a community of people to grow with.
3. Best Parenting. "Sticky Faith" by Chap Clark and Kara Powell
If you have kids you know there is one overriding truth when its comes to parenting. IT'S HARD! Seriously its a day in and day out challenge to raise children. Some days Its the greatest part of my life and the next day its the thing that is the hardest thing about my life. So this year when I set a goal to read I wanted to have a focus. I decided that the focus would be parenting. So I read 11 parenting books. First thing you notice when you pick up that many parenting books is that a lot of them say the same thing... But this book (Sticky Faith) was different. It focuses on the growing trend of kids leaving church and faith once they have left the home. It helps you to hone in on how to build a faith that is personal and real. Every parent should read this book and then read it again.
4. Best Fiction. (Series) "Inheritance Cycle" (Eragon) by Christopher Paolini
I love reading fiction! I think the best way to read it is to find a great fiction series. It was the Harry Potter series in late grade school that made reading fun for me. It was The Chronicles of Narnia in middle school that got me excited about reading. So this year I made it a goal to read a few different fiction series and the best one I came across was the Eragon books. If you are not familiar with them I will give you the quick version. It's about a young man who finds a dragon egg and finds out that it is his destiny to become a dragon rider and warrior that will help bring the end of an evil kings reign. Its an epic good vs evil story that keeps you engaged the entire series. Some say that its a rip off of Lord of the Rings and while that might be true it's still a really exciting and compelling read.
5. Most Challenging. "Messy Grace" by Caleb Kaltenbach
A read a few books this year that challenged and convicted me but none as much as this. The book is the memoirs of a Pastor in California who's parents divorced at a young age and then he was raised by his mother and her partner and his dad later came out as gay. It speaks about the messy tension of truth and grace when it comes to the church and the LGBT community. What is clear is that the church as not always shown compassion and love to the LGBT community and this book will challenge you to show the love of Christ to every person you come into contact with. It offers practical advice and real stories of redemption and love.
6. Worst Book. "Blue Like Jazz" by Don Miller
I read this book after multiple people seemed to fall over them selves to recommend it to me. The premise of this book starts off well. The author is concerned that without the gospel and truth of Jesus Christ the church will never be able to be relevant to the world. The problem is that the author then went on a rampage to undercut the church and its practices. It suggests that christianity is merely a feeling. The Gospel message seems blurred as well. In this "feeling" based faith it is impossible to grasp the truth of God. It does offer up some good questions but fails to direct readers to any helpful answers. In a world where the church is becoming less of an authority I don't think we need Blue Like Jazz and its needless attacks on the Bride of Christ.
It was a great year for me. I set a goal and saw it through. I read a lot of books that I enjoyed and a few that were lacking. Though each time that I read I learned something new. Each page I turned I grew a little more. So my encouragement to you is to read something new this year. Even if you don't like to read then try an audio book. And remember that Leaders are Readers
Here is a link all of my books this year