I read a lot. Sometimes more than one book at a time.
At the end of each year, I post the ten or so top books that have been influential to me, which I think other Christians and those in church ministry would benefit from reading as well. I don’t list journal articles, but I read a lot of these as well. But since you all will more likely buy a book than dig up an academic journal, I give you the most significant books I have read in 2018.
I don’t have to agree with everything an author has written to be influenced—to rethink, to expand my thoughts on church, the faith, the gospel, mission, evangelism, discipleship, culture, justice, etc. These eleven books make the list because their subject matter will have lasting value on me. And, I believe would greatly help you on your discipleship journey as well.
They are not in any particular order; more or less the order I read them throughout 2018. Nonetheless, I strongly suggest the two books by Richard Beck and Michael Goheen’s book on Newbigin’s “Missionary Ecclesiology” as very important and significant reads for those in church ministry. And, I highly recommend Stephen Backhouse's book on Kierkegaard is a fun (enjoyable) read that will help you think about your faith out of the box (out of the Christendom box the church finds itself in at this time).
Church and Its Vocation: Lesslie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology
by Michael W. Goheen
Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods
by Jonathan Brooks,
Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise
by Richard Beck
Mañana: Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective
by Justo L. González
Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation
by Helen Rhee
Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, Mission
by Peter J. Leithart
Saved by Faith and Hospitality
by Joshua W. Jipp
Exegeting the City: What You Need to Know About Church Planting in the City Today
by Sean Benesh
Urban Hinterlands: Planting the Gospel in Uncool Places
by Sean Benesh
Kierkegaard: A Single Life
by Stephen Backhouse
Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality
by Richard Beck
Wasted Rough Cut: Some exegetical fun with Matthew 3:3, Preparing a way in the wilderness (a comment on church planting)
Some exegetical fun with Matthew 3:3:
The ESV and almost every translation I can find translates Mat 3:3: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”
The Greek is pretty close (almost dead on) with the Isaiah 40:3 of the LXX (i.e., the Greek translation of the Old Testament): φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν (LXX)
What our modern Greek version of Matthew 3:3 does (which is reflected in the English translations) is to put in commas where there wouldn’t have been commas in the original Greek Matthew. And, the modern Greek version makes a capital Ἑ (epsilon) to give the impression that’s where the “quote” starts (Ἑτοιμάσατε, Prepare). This would not have been the case in the original as well. However, if we leave things as they are (or were, that is), the “quote” could have started (and probably was meant to be understood) at “In the wilderness,” which more accurately follows the Hebrew of Isaiah 43:3:
A voice cries:
So, John, as Matthew probably intended, was more likely heralding, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord!”
Why is this important? Because this, i.e., “in the wilderness” (“in the desert”), is where God’s road is to be built.
The “desert” is the prophet’s way of referring to the chaos of the uncreated world of Genesis 1:1 and the condition of the land now inhabited by people (returned to "chaos" and darkness), a land lacking water, a dry place (spiritually and actual) where God must recreate. Jesus is introduced into a place, a desert (if you will), where he will recreate a people for his Father’s glory.
This is church. This is church planting. This is more intentional church planting in the hinterlands, as Sean Benesh wrote, in “the uncool places.”
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.”
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.