For the last 5 years I have found it to be a good discipline to keep track of my yearly reading. I set it as a goal each year to read 52 books, not that the quantity is most important, but that I need goals and discipline to keep myself reading theology and learning more. I recognize my own laziness and if I were to just read when I felt like it, I would not read nearly enough to be the learner and thinker that I feel I need to be to be a faithful shepherd of God’s people. At this time each year I like to review the list of books I read and analyze my reading habits and reflect on which books impacted me the most. Below is the totally subjective list of the 10 books that I most enjoyed or benefited from in 2012.
10. Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey
I think many would consider “ambition” as a trait that is worldly and not a trait of a man of God. Harvey is very helpful in showing that while ambition for the wrongs things is dangerous, there is a godly ambition for God’s glory which should be cultivated.
9. Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier
This short and accessible book provides an excellent overview of the main differences between hot-climate and cold-climate cultures. I read this in advance of travelling to Cambodia last summer and found it very insightful and was able to read it in just one sitting.
8. First They Killed My Father by Loung Ang
The person reflections of Loung Ang, who as a child lived through the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and saw most of her family killed before she escaped to America.
7. Church Discipline by Jonathan Leeman
This short book does an excellent job of giving a theological framework for church discipline as well as walking through all kinds of helpful situations. Leeman shows how our understanding of the gospel will determine whether church discipline is welcomed in our churches or not.
6. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
A very helpful book for pastors and church leaders which examines common methods of charity and missions that are actually hurting those we are aiming to help. This is a very insightful book and one that I would urge you to read if you are a pastor or are involved with any global mission work.
5. The Tears of My Soul by Sokreaksa Himm
This is the amazing true story of Reaksa Himm who witnessed 13 members of his family being executed by Khmer Rouge soldiers in 1977 as a 14 year old child. They attempted to kill him as well, but unbeknownst to the soldiers he actually survived. This book tells Reaksa’s story both under the Khmer Rouge regime as well as life in Canada and his journey to faith in Christ and eventually forgiving his family’s killers. After reading this book, it was a real honour to meet Reaksa in Cambodia where he returned to plant churches near Siem Reap.
4. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton
In advance of traveling to Germany I re-read this classic biography of Luther. I found it riveting, well written and informative. I especially loved the chapter on life at home with Katie.
3. Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus by Jared Wilson
It’s always with great anticipation that I come to a new Jared Wilson book. He’s simply put, an excellent writer, and that’s different than being an excellent pastor or theologian. Unfortunately some pastors and theologians haven’t learned to write. Following up his excellent Gospel Wakefulness, in this new book Wilson leads us to wonder afresh at the multi-faceted beauty of the gospel.
2. Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul Tripp
Paul Tripp is one of the most penetrating and insightful Christian authors I know. His book Instruments in The Redeemer’s Hands is a must-read for ministry, and his What Did You Expect? is a fine book on marriage. This latest book is aimed at the toxicity of pastoral culture. As a I read I often felt like he was speaking directly to my situation, my family and my church. His insights were so penetrating and exact, it was amazing. Tripp calls pastors and churches to a much healthier relationship. This is an important book for pastors and church leaders to read. Churches and pastors have created an unhealthy and dangerous culture. This must change.
1. Center Church: Doing Balanced Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Timothy Keller
This is the book I’ve been waiting 7 or so years for Keller to write. All his books are must-reads and his books almost always top my year end lists. What makes this book unique is that it is the first that he has written primarily to pastors and church leaders. In this massive volume he lays out his well thought philosophy for church ministry and mission, or what he calls a theological vision for ministry. This the best of Tim Keller. An excellent resource that will lead you to think deeply about your church and your city. Pastors: buy this book!