I feel the odd one out with book reading during COVID. Perth has been such a restriction-free zone that I have been able to spend most of my time at the ministry coalface. But here are a few 2021 books still worth mentioning.
Wisdom in Leadership Development by Craig Hamilton
I loved and continue to benefit from Hamilton’s first book, Wisdom in Leadership. I expected this to be a similar collection of gold nuggets, but it is a different beast. The main thesis is that developing leaders is a different ballgame to discipling and leading the congregation, and so requires a thought-through plan. He is onto something significant here and I am still digesting his arguments and their implications.
developing leaders is a different ballgame to discipling and leading the congregation
Something’s not Right by Wayne Mullen
This book seeks to describe the looming iceberg of pastoral abuse and bullying in order to help church leaders recognise it and take evasive action. As someone who has (mercifully) been spared from being bullied by ministry leaders, it helpfully alerted me to the dynamics of bullying. I now recognise times I have seen it happening, and am better armed to forestall it in me and others. But it also left me with some concerns about how we respond to allegations of abuse. Mullen’s premise is that complainants ought to be believed because they are speaking up from a position of powerlessness. And I get the logic. But Scripture seems to take a more cautious approach—the accused or the accuser could be in the wrong (1 Timothy 5:19-21). Our response is not necessarily so straightforward; I think we all need to do some more thinking and heart-searching in this space.
Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas
Tsiolkas is known for his exposé The Slap, and in Damascus attempts to penetrate the shape of early Christianity through a fictionalised portrait of the Apostle Paul. Although he is able to portray something of the cruelty of first-century Roman life and the attractiveness of Christianity in that cultural context, I found it a repulsive book. Apart from its over-the-top vulgarity, the portrayal of Paul as a self-hating, repressed homosexual is totally at odds with known history—Tsiolkas’ Paul could not possibly have written any of the NT epistles penned by Paul. Fictionalised history is a valid enterprise, but it must play within the tramlines of actual historical evidence.
Apart from its over-the-top vulgarity, the portrayal of Paul as a self-hating, repressed homosexual is totally at odds with known history
Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church by Paul David Tripp
A trusted friend recommended I read this book, saying: ‘If I was Pope for a day, I think I’d make it a condition of graduation for all theological students to have read and discussed Lead‘. A heart-warming and penetrating read on how the gospel of the Lord Jesus must shape our leadership and leaders.
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
A must-read (my boss made me read it, for which I am thankful). It is an illuminating exploration of how we got to the point in western culture where the statement, ‘I am a woman in a man’s body’, makes sense and must be affirmed. Now how do I distil its insights into memes that will enable a 17-year-old to see that how they view their identity is an aberration of God’s truth, history and common sense?
Five Festal Garments by Barry Webb
I need help with understanding every book of the Bible, especially in reading Old Testament books in light of Christ. This year I had cause to revisit Webb’s book on 5 short OT writings—Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther—for some Bible studies I was writing. What a gem! Meaty but digestible, detailed but not exhaustive, perceptive but easy to follow, structured but with a storyline. In sum, these essays give a wonderful, theological, Christological overview of books often overlooked in our Bibles.