The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior & Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, Stephen Garber

Probably the most annoyingly written but most stimulating of the books I have read this year. Garber’s interest is in thinking about discipleship over the long haul, especially for young adults.  He explores a simple formula: worldview + mentor + shaping community as he writes about spiritual formation, vocation. I find myself still thinking through several concepts he introduces and discusses at length in these books: taking responsibility for knowledge; how to know the world and love it, rather than lapsing into either cynicism or stoicism; and the shape of Biblical pedagogy.

Faith for Exiles, David Kinnaman

Well known for his research with the Barna Group, Kinnaman’s last book, You Lost Me looked at reasons why young people leave church. In Faith for Exiles he looks at the reasons why those who stick around do so. He then proposes 5 strategies for resilient discipleship in digital Babylon…food for thought for anyone thinking about ministry to Millennials and Gen Z.

Gospel Centred Youth Ministry, Cameron Cole (ed)

This is a series of essays from the unfortunately named (at least in the Australian context) Rooted Youth Ministry movement in the USA. It is a solid and stimulating series of essays about exactly what the title suggests: Gospel Centred Youth Ministry. There are chapters here on the basics.

The Last Things, David Höhne

This was my tough theological reading and it didn’t disappoint. That is to say it was a tough read but well worth it. David takes us through Biblical eschatology via an exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. David takes us through what it means to live life ‘in the Middle’…between the ascension of Jesus and his return in glory. ‘In the power of the Spirit we long for the possibilities of God’s promise to perfect a relationship between him and us through the Lord Messiah Jesus at his return. We know that God has promised to give himself to us by the Spirit and through the Lord Jesus at this time. We express our hope in prayer as a Spirit-enabled response to what God has achieved for us in the death and resurrection of his eternal Son. In praying we participate in the passionate struggles of the Spirit-empowered Messiah against sin, death and evil, even as his resurrection in the power of the Spirit stands as God’s achievement that contradicts our present plight and guarantee’s Christ Jesus’ (and though him our) future’ (29). As you can see a thoroughly Trinitarian account that in the end says the last things are everything.

The Dry / The Lost Man / Force of Nature, Jane Harper
Crimson Lake / Redemption Point / Gone by Midnight, Candice Fox
Scrublands, Chris Hammer.

This was a year for Australian crime fiction. None of these are as good as Peter Temple (Truth still remains my favourite all time Australian crime novel; a great story as well as an absorbing meditation on masculinity in Australia). That said Jane Harper comes close with The Dry and Force of Nature, both set in Victoria: The Dry in a small country town in the midst of a drought and Force of Nature in a wilderness area. The Lost Man is in outback Queensland. Scrublands is also set in country Victoria, while Candice Fox takes us to far north Queensland. All have a wonderful sense of place and explore themes of masculinity, femininity, families, communities and history and the contemporary Australian regional experience. Candice Fox is the most ‘international’ in tone (think James Patterson, with whom she sometimes collaborates) and the most fun.

Radical Candour, Kim Sott

This was my leadership book this year and helps us to think about giving feedback in a leadership context. Radical Candour is the sweet spot between managers who are obnoxiously aggressive  on the one side and ruinously empathetic on the other. It I all about how to give guidance, that mix of praise and criticism to produce better results and help employees achieve. Obviously a business book so some translation required. But, sensible advice, a persuasive case made, and if only it could be effectively put into practice!

Commentaries on 1 John (Karen Jobes) and John (Edward Klink III) in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Series.

While not exactly read cover to cover, this newish series has the innovation of providing English flow charts of the text as well as a generally helpful format that moves through exegesis to application that is more theological than cultural and so does not require as much ‘translation’  when looking to the local context.

Job (Preaching the Word), Christopher Ash

This is a terrific series of commentaries written by preachers and this volume on Job is superb. Ash moves slowly through Job, constantly turning up new insights and showing how a Christological and therefore Gospel reading of Job can be faithfully arrived at. It is full of insights about humanity, the way we relate unsuccessfully to God, the grace and mercy of God, and the application of the text to pastoral experience. I used this to guide my bible reading over several rewarding months and wished I was in a regular preaching gig to use its insights in a sermon series.