It’s summer, and that means it’s time for barbeque, beaches, and books!
For pastors, summer usually means some vacation time; for the fortunate ones, several weeks of church-provided study leave may be on the horizon. Such times offer a wonderful opportunity to depart from the usual reading program — typically weighted toward sermon preparation — and “take a dip” into some new and unexplored streams.
Herewith, some possible side trips for summer reading:
Bob Briner, The Management Methods of Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 115 pp., hardcover, $14.99.
The shelves of bookstores are full to overflowing with business books, but this one offers a worthwhile hour of reading to any pastor. It’s brief (an hour should do it) but packed with insightful ideas on management, based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
The slim volume contains 49 short chapters, each a management principle, such as “Choose Your Own Associates,” “Field-Test Your Staff,” “Share the Glory,” and “Stand Up for Your People.” While targeted to the business leader, pastors who manage staff will find useful ideas for their own work, and interesting illustrative material for sermons. (Oops, we’re supposed to be reading things other than for sermons this summer!)
In the chapter entitled “Beware of Sycophants,” Briner says: “The higher up the corporate ladder you go, the greater the temptation to let yourself be surrounded by ‘yes-men.’ There is a great temptation to believe their baloney. This is always dangerous. In the first place, though you may be blind to it, your business associates recognize sycophancy for what it is–ego boosting running wild–and they will lose respect for you. Also, the higher you go, the greater your need for solid, truthful, critical advice and information … You need to be the kind of leader who appreciates and rewards those who will tell you the truth, no matter how distasteful that truth might be.”
Briner is president of Pro Serv television and an Emmy-award winning producer.
Authetic Christianity: From the Writings of John Stott, ed by Timothy Dudley-Smith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 426 pp., hardcover.
John Stott has been one of the church’s most significant voices in this century, and this delightful collection provides us a choice series of excerpts from his many books and articles. The excerpts are organized under 67 different chapter headings, which are grouped under divisions such as “The living God,” “Revelation and Scripture,” Living as a Christian,” and “Into all the world.”
Pastors will particularly enjoy the chapter on “Ministers and Ministry,” but don’t limit your reading to this section. Stott fans will appreciate the chance to be reminded of the tremendous insights offered by this gifted Christian preacher over the past five decades; those who are new to Stott will find this volume an excellent introduction to this gifted Christian communicator and theologian. (If you are new to Stott, make the effort to track down a copy of his 1961 book, The Preacher’s Portrait, published by Eerdmans — one of the best works on preaching you’ll ever read.)
Carl F. George, The Coming Church Revolution (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1994), 320 pp., paper, $10.99.
Subtitled “Empowering Leaders for the Future,” this book provides a leadership textbook for building churches through emphasizing relationships rather than programs. George utilizes some forty case studies, along with a number of charts and graphics, to make his case.
If you’ve been reading about “cell groups” and thought they were referring to biology class, George’s volume will introduce you to many of the key concepts and emphases of this popular church growth approach. While the methodology won’t be for every pastor or church, it is important that church leaders understand the principles presented here.
George Barna, Generation Next: What You Need to Know About Today’s Youth (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1995), 129 pp., hardcover.
This latest product of the Barna publishing machine places the focus on the youngest segment of Generation X, and introduces the reader to the hopes, fears and perspectives of young people in and out of the church. Based on a nationwide survey of persons born between 1977 and 1982, Generation Next analyzes today’s youth from multiple amgles: how they live, what they think, and what they believe (and don’t believe) about spiritual issues. Much of what you’ll learn will be disturbing, but necessary to understand if we are to communicate effectively with an entire generation.
Given that a large percentage of spiritual decisions are made during the teenage years, pastors will benefit from the information and analysis Barna offers.
And while you’re at it, be sure to take along some books that are pure indulgence. Some interesting titles to take to the beach include:
Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte — the founder of MIT’s Media Lab — introduces the rest of us to the revolutionary technological changes now taking place in contemporary culture, and how they may affect our daily lives. If you have been trying to figure out the difference between bits and bytes, and if you’re wondering what all the Internet fuss is all about, a few hours with Negroponte’s book will be a worthwhile investment for you.
The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher is an intriguing look at one of the most pivotal figures in the twentieth century. Whether or not you agree with her political views, there is little doubt that Lady Thatcher has had an unparalleled impact on the face of modern Britain, as well as a significant influence on the course of world events during the past two decades.

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