2014 closed out with the usual smattering of Top 10 lists of books that had been meaningful to people during the course of the year. The same people are opening 2015 with lists of resolutions that they hope to keep—changes they want to make to their lives. But I suspect that there are plenty of people out there who don’t want things to change. Real change is disruptive and unsettling. It upsets the status quo and prevents life from continuing on as usual.
With that in mind, I give you, in no particular order, 10 Books to Avoid in 2015 (Unless You Want Things to Change). Seriously, if you like your life as it is right now, don’t read these books. If your horizons are broad enough, stay clear of the things on this list. If you find nothing wanting with your church and your theology, make sure these books don’t find their way into your library. Each one of these books will challenge your sensibilities and may cause big changes in your life. Who wants that?
Riffing off the “slow food” movement, Smith and Pattison offer an important (and biblical!) alternative to the McDonaldization of the western church. They look at the ethics, ecology, and economy of a church in which people are committed to one another and rooted in a place. This book will challenge your notion of what the church ought to be—especially if that notion includes the prefix “mega-” or relies heavily on fog machines and skinny jeans.
This book is the first of its kind: a primer on creation care by evangelicals for evangelicals. Brunner, Butler, and Swoboda take nothing for granted, patiently and deftly taking the reader through a comprehensive examination of scripture, theology, and church history to show that the care of God’s creation permeates nearly all aspects of how Christians relate to God and to one another. This book will challenge how you occupy space in this life and what impact that has on the next life.
Do you know what the Bible has to say about gender? Do you really? With charm, grace, and wit, Bessey invites the reader to take a long, honest look at what the Bible says and how the church practices are often inconsistent with (if not downright antagonistic to Scripture. Hers is not a fiery condemnation of the church, but a passionate plea to become more like Christ. This book will challenge how you see women in the Bible and in your church.
Over 40 Christian men contributed essays about their faith and fatherhood to this volume of the I Speak for Myself series of books. Culling from an ethnically, culturally, and theologically diverse group of young men, Campbell weaves a tapestry of tales about what it means to be a father, to have a father, or relate to God as Father. This book will challenge what you think of when you hear the word “father.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., is credited with saying that the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. Cleveland’s book tells us why, and what we can do about it. She exposes how differences in theology, culture, and race create “ingroups” and “outgroups” in the larger body of Christ, preventing unity among believers. But she doesn’t leave the reader in despair. She has some practical (and hard) steps that any Christian can take to start fully living out the unity Christ calls for. This book will challenge the cultural, racial, and theological composition of your relationships and your church.
The father of black theology takes up two of the most important images in the African American community, exploring their interconnectedness in a way that no theologian has done before. He unapologetically shows the disconnect between the polished, sanitized crosses that hang from the necks of white Christians and the legacy of white Christians hanging black Christians by their necks. That legacy and disconnect still informs much of white theology and praxis today. This book will challenge clean, tidy theologies that focus more on Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior than they do on Jesus Christ as God of the Lynched.
This edited volume of essays presents Anabaptism as a way forward in an increasingly post-Christendom world. With the cultural and institutional dominance of Christianity on the wane, what are the possible responses? The mainline response is a mixture of fret and capitulation to culture. The evangelical response is often to circle the wagons and launch some misguided cultural counter offensive. The contributors to this volume aren’t content with either of these Christendom-reinforcing tactics. Instead, they offer us a different vision of the church, culture, and the future. This book will challenge how you view Christians and their influence in the world.
There is little argument that institutional Christianity in the west is experiencing a huge decline. Piatt tells us why and asks us if any of it is worth saving. He weaves together critique and hope, pulling no punches but refusing to allow the reader to wallow in self-pity. There is a lot about institutional Christianity that should be allowed to die, but for Christians death is always accompanied by resurrection. Piatt explores what we should let die and what we should resurrect. This book will challenge the sacred cows and structures that you hold dear.
Though first popularized by Carl Jung, Fr. Richard Rohr explores the “two halves of life” by looking at their different spiritual aims. The first half of life is about forming identity where the second half of life is about living into that identity. Rohr gives the reader an in-depth portrait of the spiritual needs of each half of life, and exhorts the reader to look forward to the transition between the two. This book will challenge your sense of identity and contentment in your spiritual life.
Not technically one book, per se, but four, nestled in the middle of a bunch of others. These four perspectives on the life of Jesus of Nazareth showcase a radical prophet, healer, reconciler, and messiah. The biblically literate will see that in the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s pursuit of relationship with humankind reached a new level. Focusing in on the life of Jesus, one is forced to see just how unsettling being a follower of his must be. This book will challenge how you relate to the marginalized, the oppressed, and the God of the universe.