My 2021 reading list is composed of 78 books I read during the year. It’s the value I’ve always placed on reading and the compilation of my annual list that made a recent article stand out to me. In the November/December 2021 issue of Success magazine, it says that “American adults spend less than 10 minutes per day reading printed materials, compared to a whopping 7 hours and 50 minutes of screen time.” If correct, this statistic reflects the greatest loss we might suffer as people; to develop through the collected wisdom of the written word. The article continues, saying “The benefits of reading are far-reaching, with research showing bookworms experience less stress, reduced risk of depression, lowered blood pressure and improved sleep.” These benefits are probably true, but interacting with written ideas expands your own wisdom and knowledge, an invaluable exercise.
As I record each title in my journal, I add a rating of 1 to 5. Those rated 5 of 5 are the best, memorable pieces of writing that deserve to be widely read. Three books at the top of my list stand out because their rating exceeds the boundaries, rated as 10 of 5 stars. These 3 books would make a list of must-read volumes for Christians. Perhaps I’ll touch on each of these in separate posts to pique your interest. The books at the bottom of the list rated 2 stars are not worth your time, falling short of their promise (or, in the case of Dr. Flowers’ book, it’s potential). The other note you’ll notice on this list are those books marked 2x, indicating they were read twice or a second time with years of separation. As I look at these volumes, I’m tempted to add Henderson’s book Old Paths, New Power (read twice last year) to the 10 of 5 list. If revival interests you, this is a good place to start.
Make a list of your own for 2022. It might just motivate you to read more and build a growing library of wisdom and ideas.
The presence of the unsaved thinking of themselves as Christians has been a reality forever. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus himself warns against putting stock in a false conversion saying, “not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says it, but the state of the modern church is often resistant to hearing and heeding the admonishment. As author Inserra relates, cultural Christianity has embedded itself deeply in the Church, its comforting lack of accountability enveloping people in a warm embrace of false belief.
Inserra structures is excellent book along the lines of a missionary guide for an unreached people group. The interaction that he shares at the beginning of the book with his seminary classmate sets a challenging tone. While Pastor Inserra looked at his brother’s assignment to Northern California as an incredible challenge (the land of proud unbelief), his brother turned the table to warn him against the assumptions that came with an assignment to the Bible Belt. This bracing moment is when he began to really examine the reality of faith amongst those who proclaimed a belief in Christ as a part of their everyday life. Examination proved that this belief was anecdotal in some cases, cultural in most of them and simply a part of being a citizen of the South for many. The chapters of the book that follow the analysis give the reader excellent study points for ways in which to approach each of these groups and more.
“Unsaved” is a quick read but not shallow. As someone involved in ministry, I can see a face to go along with each of the belief types that he describes. This personalization gives the reader the opportunity to think through the conversation that you want to have in the way that you want to approach that person. It didn’t begin the book with high hopes because I thought it was simply stating the obvious, but Inserra has performed a valuable service for Christ’s church, saying the hard things that need to be said in love.
Pastor Wilson turns the Church’s attention to the much quoted but less applied New Testament epistle of Titus and its core message. The Spirit inspired the author of that letter to not only leave his worker Titus on the Greek island of Crete to organize the Christians there, but gave the principles by which he was to do so as well. Using as his objective that the Church be the city on a hill that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount, Wilson leads the reader through the points of Paul’s letter and helps us to understand how his marching orders for Titus apply to the Church today.
For such a brief book the value is immense. Wilson expertly exegetes the equally brief letter and helps the reader to see the big idea in each of the passages. ‘Zealous’ is not a gnostic promise (Jabez et al.) of discovering some new hidden secret, but rather, it is an eminently practical look at the principles that Paul gave to Titus that address many of the shortcomings of the Church in our age. Three that are discussed in the book are the poor level of discipleship, the chasm of credibility (that is, the difference between what we say and what we do) and the effect that these have on how we apprehend the missional opportunity ahead of us.
Read ‘Zealous’ with your bible close by. It is likely you have read Titus multiple times (if you are picking up a books such as this) but much of that reading has been focused in the Eldership requirements. Wilson deftly leads the reader to see that Titus contains so much more practical application for the Church beyond those instructions. For example, Wilson stops us in a passage often seen as preamble, Paul’s greeting in 1:1-4 to point out the importance of preaching and the power of the gospel. The gospel is both the content and the power of preaching something that can be missing in today’s environment of therapeutic deism. A city on hill is not built on the pillars of making people feel better where it teeters and shifts with every new personal demand. It is founded on the unchanging glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The only disappointment I had with the book was that it was over so quickly. The more I think about it though, the length of the book is exactly right given the brevity of the profound instruction in its source. I have a new hunger to dig into Titus and preach it in the future. In the meantime, the study guide included at the back of the book is a bonus for church leaders seeking to present their people as salt and light in the world. Buy this, read this and read it again.